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KMFDM: Hell Yeah

KMFDM
Hell Yeah
(earMUSIC)

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In addition to its exuberant title, which seems equal parts defiant and optimistic in that charming way that only Sascha & Co can pull off, the first thing that struck me about KMFDM’s new album was its cover art, created by their long-time collaborator Aidan Hughes (aka Brute).

It seems to epitomize what our culture has become, for better or worse. It’s a man standing on what appears to be a bridge or a tower, having just taken a selfie with a smartphone, turning the phone outwards to show the world.

The title track kicks it off with swelling synths and a sample that says, “I’ve just arrived from Germany, and I love you…I’m with you. Germany is with you.” Goosebumps erupted on my arms as “Hell Yeah” roared to life amidst the heart-swellingly familiar rumble and thump of arpeggiated synths and a relentless kick drum.  Are you ready? Hell yeah!” frontman Sascha Konietzko growls over a wall of chugging guitars and dazzling synths. Well, if we weren’t before, we will be now!

The references to our current political climate are rampant and chillingly effective. In “Total State Machine,” our fearless leader reminds us, “Your government hates you.” “Fake News” is a laugh-sob reference to Trump-era media and how easy it is to be fooled these days, containing samples from Ann Coulter and the ominous line, “The top of the food chain will decide what they tell you.” It’s almost satire, except it’s also very serious, and it works. Another notable contributor is Living Colour’s bassist Doug Wimbish on “RX 4 The Damned.” His menacing slap bass brings the track to life along with Lucia Cifarelli’s snarling vocals. Her presence is fierce and crucial, particularly on the dancefloor stomper “Murder My Heart,” and the slower “Only Lovers,” which feels like a love song for end times.

The last track, “Glam, Glitz, Guts, & Gore” follows Raymond Watts’ formula of alliteration in the title and is perhaps one of many nods to the band’s past. It starts out with dissonant mechanical samples and then batters us in the ears with ferocious drums. Sascha viciously rants about current pop culture: “Everyone everywhere wants celebrity” and goes on to remind us how “complacent and compliant/totally reliant” we’ve become. It’s very vocal-centric and simple, but the guitars and synths underneath feel ominous and wonderfully sleazy.

Many of the sounds and samples throughout this album, if you know the band’s history, are little tributes to their early work. Although this is something they’ve done a lot throughout their 30-year career, enough time has passed that now it feels not only endearing, but downright powerful. “Rip The System v.2.0” is essentially a sequel to their single of the same title, bringing us more of the signature reggae/dub slant from 1989’s UAIOE. The shorter interludes “Oppression 1 & 2” featuring journalist Abby Martin, are reminiscent of Nicole Blackman’s memorable spoken word appearance on their 1996 single “Dogma.” The title track contains many lyrics which are a nod to their Watts-era work on 1995’s masterpiece Nihil. And just like their previous releases Attak and WWIII, this album will doubtlessly go down in history as a product of its time. This one’s a keeper.

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About Andy Halo

Andy Halo is a queer trans artist who moved from Brooklyn to the Bay Area in 2015, where he plays bass and keyboards in various jazz, funk, and rock projects including his own electronic music. He works in IT and has two cats named Rico Suave and Frankie Sinatra.
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