Recent KMFDM albums have followed something of a pattern, and not just in their release dates – i.e. in the Spring, every other year, for ten years now. All these years of "conceptual continuity" have resulted somewhat in a band resting on their laurels a bit, and most criminally re-using the same old ideas time after time. And yes, this album is pretty much doing that again, but it isn't without it's joys along the way – we could call it, er, "conceptual continuity", yes?
But rather than the kick-ass opener that has been the case on the last few albums, here it starts…well, with a bit of a whimper. KUNST has all the elements that should work. Thumping beats, punchy guitar riffs, and sloganeering to the max. It's just that KRANK did it tons better last time, and even the building of the lyrics to the whole song from previous KMFDM song titles (as well as the use of not-really-what-actually-KMFDM-means as the hook) is a trick that grates really, really quickly.
Ave Maria isn't much better, another track that is frankly KMFDM by numbers. But like all KMFDM albums, there are always one or two tracks that just nail it. The first of those here is the following track Quake: where the band let rip with political, rabble-rousing fury over a bulldozing, industrial-metal musical assault. A bit later on the snarling, politically-charged Pussy Riot is also brilliant, and riffs on old, old KMFDM classic Terror. But the sincerity of the subject matter brings things right up to date, this is by far Lucia's best performance on a KMFDM song, and proves once again that when KMFDM stop congratulating themselves in the mirror over their longevity and, yes, "conceptual continuity", they are a near-unstoppable, thrilling force.
Other things: new single I ♥ NOT, that closes the album, has a slightly more mellow vibe (in amongst the usual rhythms and riffs), and is possibly the only attempt on the whole album to even pay lip service to any direction other than straight ahead. That said, I'm looking forward to hearing the KMFDM-go-metal-once-again of Hello and The Next Big Thing live (particularly the thrashy breakdowns in the former), but once again, they are both somewhat dragged down by that nagging feeling that they sound awfully, awfully familar.
And here is the crux of the problem. I was writing pretty much the same thing about them around two years ago, when I reviewed WTF?!. The odd great moment, a load of middling tracks and a few moments that aren't very good. Pseudocide is the latter here, I'd forgotten about it entirely thirty seconds into the next song – which yet again is a rehash of the past. Animal Out would have the scope to be a storming dancefloor track, that is, if the mighty Megalomaniac hadn't already existed for over fifteen years.
KMFDM are hardly alone in rehashing old ideas, but what is so bloody frustrating about it is that there are always those signs of life, of creativity, flickering away a bit somewhere on each album. After three decades, they are hardly in a need to reach out to new fans, but surely if they still have the drive and fire to keep going, there surely must be new ideas somewhere, right?
It appears those that keep reminding us of their (glorious) past are condemned to repeat it*.
*With apologies to George Santayana