“Hello, Teenage America.” That’s the blandly spoken phrase that leads off “Vogue”, the second track from KMFDM’s seminal 1992 album Money. I turned 13 that year, so it was as technically correct a greeting as it was strangely on-the-nose. However, at the time of that album’s release, I remained unaware of the existence of the German-centered “Ultra-Heavy Beat” collective, having myself just been awakened to the more standard suburban musical menu of thrash metal via the Big Four. It wasn’t until ’93 when my brother crossed my palm with Angst that I got on board with that potent, idiosyncratic import with the enigmatic acronym for a name.
How could I not? Just look at that damn cover art! Brute! POW! Bright monochrome suggesting propaganda, sex, power and control! What kind of music could be represented by such an arresting image? Pounding, danceable electronics, beeps and boops underlying the constant aggression of rhythm guitar savagely wielded. The lyrics? Simple(GLORY! DRUG AGAINST WAR! LIGHT! SUCKS!) and direct. Ironic, perhaps? Who gave even the tiniest shit about irony? Not a 14 year-old! I mean, they actually said “KMFDM SUCKS!” on purpose. Like, isn’t that their own band? That’s crazy! Bomb noises! To a kid with (at that point) no real exposure to either punk ideology or Primus (who notably also “sucked”), these guys were next-level. And though I know use of this term for the purpose of describing non-Genesis P. Orridge projects carries a risk of igniting endless pedantic circle-jerking, KMFDM and Ministry were my first “industrial” bands. They had an edge and a style that my other, more traditionally “metal” bands lacked. They were. So. Goddamned. Cool.
TWENTY YEARS LATER:
It’s the 30th anniversary of KMFDM’s first release, Opium. Thirty years is a hell of a landmark for a band. They’ve had endless lineup changes with founder Sascha Konietzko as the only constant. They disbanded. They reformed. Sascha married post-reformation new-hire Lucia Cifarelli and now she’s the only other constant. Time for a statement album! Cue the release of Our Time Will Come.
We begin with the voice of Annabella (she tells you this), actual child of Konietzko and Cifarelli declaring, “Hello, Teenage America!”. Holy shit. She also states that she’s going to teach us “German for Dummies” and the first song “Genau” absolutely lives up to that. It’s a standard bracing electronic beat with typically charging guitars and the lyrics are (no shit) mostly comprised of Konietzko and Cifarelli shouting a call-and-response of German words the average English speaker probably already knows. I’m going to quote a passage but I warn you: you won’t believe me. *ahem* “BLITZKRIEG!/ HAUSFRAU! /FAHRVERGNUGEN! /SAUERKRAUT!” And you know what? It’s kind of a kick; how could it not be? It sounds exactly like most of their output for the last twenty years. It’s not very smart. And it’s a lot of fun. Welcome to Our Time Will Come, dear listener, you’re going to get a lot of that.
The album plays like a summation. “We’ve had thirty years to work on this. This is what we sound like. We will have some variations on this theme, but don’t expect much in that regard. Also, were you aware that our name is KMFDM because we’ve really tried to make that clear throughout our catalog.” Seriously, has any band in history ever self-referenced as much as Sascha and the gang? As silly as that is, it’s all part of the flavor of the band. They’re going to say their own name a bunch. They’re going to reference past albums and repeat old lyrics. They’re going to tell you to go out there and Never Give Up! and Fight The Man!. There will be a couple of slower tracks and a lot of fast ones. If you’ve come for KMFDM, you’re going to be at least modestly satisfied.
If any track on this album sums up the total experience it comes at the midpoint with “Salvation”. Dead heavy, foot-stomping and dancy, the sound will be familiar to any fan. The lyrics are of the harshly barked, inspirational/go-get-‘em variety, and it even features Cifarelli reprising the opening refrain of Naïve’s title track (that’s the way of the world, etc). Other offerings provide a similar experience, most notably “Respekt” which punctuates its guitar assault with the oft-repeated chorus “I will punch your head until you say ‘I respect you’”. No shit; those are the words. There’s your mission statement, KMFDM. Three decades in and you’ve finally distilled it.
The slower tracks are also pretty entertaining and help highlight Konietzko’s continuously improving production techniques. The title track is lush and atmospheric with layering that rewards headphones, and “Brainwashed” is a nice, prolonged downtempo crush. One can even note the occasional nod to contemporary EDM in a few spots; the intro to “Respekt”, for instance, features a cheeky bit of dubsteppy wub-wub for the young’uns. Additionally, Sascha and Lucia are excellent programmers, a fact that can be easy to lose amid the guitars-and-shouting sturm and drang (yes, I know that’s the name of an earlier song/tour because of course it is). The few quieter moments on OTWC therefore provide a better opportunity to soak in and appreciate the lovely electronic textures.
In a thirty year history, a band is bound to have some misses to go with the hits. As much as Konietzko’s ongoing “performance art project” is treading extremely well-trod ground (they may have worn it down into a trench at this point), they are still doing it with uncanny energy and passion, and those qualities are what keeps them vital and each album at least worth a try. At its best, (and Our Day Will Come is their best in a while) KMFDM is comfort food. Not particularly nourishing, with a lot of fat and relatively uncomplicated flavors you’ve tasted a thousand times. The thing is though, just like with macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes and gravy, etc., sometimes it really hits the spot. You just can’t really live on it. For long.