Have you ever:
- Gone up the hill with a couple of mates, drunk several litres of Woodpecker and set fire to a bunch of stuff?
- Driven round a corner on a sunny Saturday afternoon into the middle of a full scale riot conducted for the most part by 12-14 year old kids?
- Steered a stolen Mk III Cortina into an electricity sub station?
- Come across a crate of empty milk bottles and thrown them into the air directly over your head and waited for them to fall?
- Watched hundreds of fans of Cliftonville FC walk towards you after a match, in the 1970s?
- Been startled as a child as a Saracen, a Land Rover, a Bedford truck and an armoured fork lift mount the pavement in front of you as you wend your innocent way to school?
- Run en masse from the peelers and found yourself hiding behind a garage, breathless and exhilarated with a scruffy girl who suddenly pushes herself forward and you taste salt on her cracked lips and smell woodsmoke in her hair?
- Considered that the phrase ‘stick hit the stick I hit the stick’ makes perfect sense?
- Thought that civilised society is but a baw hair away from atavistic anarchy and, on some small, or even medium sized level, craved that?
If so, then it is likely that the good time music of Killing Joke is for you.
I am not not saying that I haven’t not experienced some or all the above in my short life. The Cortina might merely have been abandoned. There has never been a time when I could drink several litres of Woodpecker. Certainly I have never kissed a girl. Nonetheless, such formative experiences are part of the average Killing Joke fan’s psssyche.
Variously described by the criterati as ‘lunatics’, ‘fascists’ and ‘complete and utter bollocks’, Killing Joke have ploughed a singular, if sometimes wobbly, furrow through the hinterlands of popular music. A casual Google of their name does not produce any descriptors that would encourage the uninitiated to investigate them, viz., ‘doom goth metal’ ‘quasi goth metal’ ‘pre-industrial goth prog metal’ ‘proto goth punk metal’ ‘dance rock metal’ and ‘the sound of the earth vomiting’. They are frequently cited as being a major influence on many bands I dislike intensely, bands with names like Korn and Prong and Tool and Worn and Dong and Stool that are typically staffed by fat, middle class petulant Americans in big shorts with stupid goatee beards and tattoos who sing about how they have ‘issues’, man, over turgid, grinding dirge-like metal. The kind of music you would imagine Donald Rumsfeld would sanction playing to internees in Abu Ghraib when waterboarding was proving a mite ineffective and he needed to ratchet things up a notch.
I find this perplexing, for I believe there is much joy, beauty and wonder in Killing Joke’s canon. There is rage and anger too, but it is focussed and directed and the overall effective is energising and cathartic. (Truth be told there is a fair degree of quasi-goth-metal-dance bollocks as well, but let us ignore that for now). Killing Joke’s music is not self-pitying and self-obsessed like the music produced by the real and imaginary bands referred to in the preceding paragraph.
Tonight’s tremendous 45 is the title track (of sorts) from Killing Joke’s 1983 LP, Fire Dances. Fire Dances, for the uninitiated, is a virile, thrusting, priapic, primitive, pulsing, percussive masterpiece of constrained, ordered chaos and delicate feminine beauty, which, from the opening drumbeat, both musically and lyrically drives the listener relentlessly forward and onwards to its conclusion. Let’s All Go is the penultimate song on the album: its deliberate placing next to the cathartic release of the last track a final urgent exhortation to join the madness, join the carnival, join the celebration – embrace your humanity before it’s too late! Its celebratory hedonism makes me think of fire and night and clean, crisp air and freedom and exhilaration and glee and wanton indulgence and joy and untrammelled, complete and utter childlike happiness.
ALL HAIL TO THE BEAST.