If you’ve been visiting this site over the past year, you’ve heard plenty of praise from me about KMFDM, one of the early landmark bands in the loosely-labeled “industrial” genre, and one whose signature “ultra-heavy beat” style has always been easy to identify over the years, despite a constantly revolving door of band members (including, at any given moment, members of Skinny Puppy, Ministry, and even R.E.M.), and their latter-day infusion of metal into their aggro-electro beat-driven repertoire. And as you've probably figured out, I’m still not through talking about them yet. Just roll with me here.
During my usual random ramblings I’ve pretty much covered the band’s almost 25-year career fairly extensively in the past (check out my review for Tohuvabohu and Brimborium for beaucoup backstory), so I won’t waste a lot of time rehashing it this time. That being said, the recently remastered, repackaged, re-released, re-whatever collection of the band’s entire history of singles (and their associated remixes) dubbed the EXTRA series, still deserves a little historical context, right? Well, duh.
Since their creation in 1984 by German performance artist Sascha “Kap’n K” Konietzko, KMFDM has been a staple in clubs around the world, and their intense dedication to their fanbase has ensured that those who came aboard from the beginning of their career (including yours truly, don’t ask me how old I was then) remain loyal to the end. Sascha’s ever-changing support lineup has included avant-garde performer En Esch, industrial legend Raymond Watts (of PIG), Ministry’s Bill Rieflin and, of course, former Drill vocalist Lucia Cifarelli (rowwrrr!) to name just a few.
Over their quarter-century lifespan, KMFDM has generated a barrage of club-friendly singles – themselves subjected to an avalanche of remixes by members of the band, as well as fellow electronic music pioneers like Die Warzau,Thrill Kill Kult and Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor.
Those singles and their various mutant offspring have been gathered together for EXTRA Volumes 1-3, and roughly grouped according to each of the band’s three main creative eras. Since the band has already remastered nearly their entire catalog of full albums from their years on the Wax Trax! label, this collection gathers the tracks excluded from those albums – derived from 12” vinyl singles, CD/cassette singles and extended versions – some of which have never been officially released until now. Each volume includes a booklet containing art from ubiquitous KMFDM promo artist Brute!, archive photos of the band, full historical details about each track and plenty more.
The whole set weighs in at 6 CDs, with a total of 26 tracks for the whole shebang, well over 2 hours’ worth of music. And you know what? It’s all just as fresh, mean, heavy and wickedly relevant as it was when the Kap’n laid down his first tracks in 1984, and you can take that to the bank, suckaz.
So now that I’ve got the historical crap out of the way, let’s crack this piñata open and check out them goodies.
This one really takes me back... I have a soft spot for “Vogue,” being the first KMFDM record I ever bought (it’s still in my collection today), and the original 12” vinyl version is the best. It's here with multiple versions of “Split,” fan favorites “Rip the System,” “Money” (the “metal version” will rock your nuts) and “More & Faster,” while Thrill Kill Kult spin the mirrorball for a glammy disco remix of “Naive.”
Some non-Wax Trax versions resurface here, including the Z Records version of “Seig Seig,” which is about as old-school industrial as it gets. But where's that cover of the Osmond Family's 1972 hit “Crazy Horses?” No, that's not a typo – they covered the freakin' Osmonds! That's music gold, for cryin' out loud! Gold!
Spanning the band’s singles from around ‘92 to ’94, these singles are most notable as the first real infusion of metal guitars – often sampled on past records but here mostly played in the studio in the deft hands of Gunter Schulz: check out “Bargeld” and “Trust” for some horns-up examples.
Socio-political commentary also became more prominent from this point forward, as evident in hit tracks like “A Drug Against War.” Other highlights include a whopping ten different remixes of “Light” (including one version by Trent Reznor), and the set concludes with “Glory (Exploitation Mix),” a hint of the full-on hard industrial metal that became the band’s MO going forward.
But of course, you can't do a KMFDM retrospective without mentioning “Sucks,” one of the band's many legendary shout-outs to themselves (“You might think we're stupid but we're way above it... We don't give a shit, and the kids just love it”). I might add that the “Goodbye Barb” version of this one is a hand-hammered block of awesome.
The third and final volume (for now, anyway) goes even heavier, setting the table for their “millennial” period – one that followed a brief breakup, temporary reformation as MDFMK, then current regrouping under their original name.
Still with me? Oh good.
The production value from this period is noticeably higher, right out of the gate with the epic “Move On” from Angst, boasting raging power-metal riffs, intricate drumming and layered vocals – definitely one of the best tracks from this period. Most of the remaining tracks are from popular 1995 album Nihil, known mostly for the hit single “Juke Joint Jezebel” – which boasts a snakelike lead vocal from Raymond Watts and a hooky-as-hell chorus (“The revelation...”), and four additional remixes here (you may recall the “Metropolis” version from the Mortal Combat movie).
Another Nihil track to get the treatment is “Brute,” a full-on metal single that gets upended completely into the aggro-techno “Kun$t Mix” and thrown rudely against a Hawaiian-style steel guitar (huh?) for the “Punch Mix.” But for all their quirky touches, these few come across as a bit redundant. It's all capped off with the strange, rambling anthem “Revolution II,” which feels like a stew of just about every KMFDM style up to this point... not a bad thing, of course, if you like stew.
For fans, choosing the best of the three is a non-issue – they’re going to need them all. For those who may have heard some of the band’s more recent material and want to find out how it all began, Volume 1 combined with their first Wax Trax release What Do You Know, Deutschland? would be a great place to start. You’ll hear the first confident assertion of the band’s anthemic, politically-loaded songwriting style paired with the heavy-but-danceable beats and samples that became their trademark… and the remixes are a great showcase for their production skills, as they continually flip a song in so many new and creative ways it’s often barely recognizable.
Me, I’m grabbing them all to complete my collection, because I’ve got a major geek-on for these guys. The whole set is available once EXTRA Volume 3 drops next week, so getcha some.