Killing Joke What's This For...!
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Killing Joke’s second album builds on the style of their first. Heavy, tribal drums and gut-wrenching, deep-as-the-ocean, dub bass lines, combined with jagged guitars and the most melodically shouted vocals ever to grace any form of rock. The formula is the same but a higher production budget and / or more experience in the studio has led to a far more polished sound – but when I say polished, I don’t mean polished like a marble statue or a beach-washed pebble, oh no! this is polished like cut-glass; polished like a bayonet! To understand the impact of their first few albums, you really need an insight into the England of the times. Thatcherism was in its first flush. Unemployment was at an all-time high. The rich / poor divide was getting more pronounced by the hour. Add to this the fact that the cold war was still at its height; nuclear destruction a very real prospect to many. Killing Joke reflected the fear, anger and despair of society’s dispossessed better than anyone. The album opens with a bass drum beat. Inviting you to dance? Or to march? You choose. Geordie’s guitar joins the party with one of his sublime riffs; trebly, overdriven, edgy and discordant. To see him play live, nonchalantly strumming as he leans against a speaker stack, cigarette dangling from his mouth, it’s hard to understand how he plays with such cutting precision – such is genius I suppose. Youth’s bass slips in as the drumbeat goes tribal, so low that you feel it in your spine rather than hear it (sub-woofers were made for music like this), and we’re off into another KJ classic. Tension is even better, one of their finest tracks, non-stop pummelling drums, a swooping, fretless bass, chugging guitar and Jaz’s unmistakeable voice, “and the tension builds” – it certainly does. Unspeakable has almost Adam Ant style drumming and funky bass with a distorted guitar washing over everything. Butcher begins with the first noticeable synth on the album – a machine pulse that continues throughout the song. This song also illustrates one of KJ’s trademarks, the vocal free chorus.Follow the Leader is probably the most typical KJ song of the time – it also marked their first entry into the mainstream charts – reaching number 55 as a double A side with Tension. Madness has one of the best, most abrasive Geordie riffs on the album and anti-clown Jaz and drummer Paul Henderson (who provided quite a few backing vocals on the early albums) both shouting “This is Madness” throughout. Once again, an instrumental break replaces any true chorus. Who Told You How is the only piece of filler on the album (and the only reason it doesn’t get a 10) – it would have made an OK B-side to a single but lacks enough direction to work on the album – especially when you compare the tracks that it’s competing with – nice bass from Youth though. The album finishes with Exit, there are elements of the later single Eighties here and some nice offbeat stabs on guitar and bass in the verse. Once again, there is no real chorus, just a drawn out echo of the last line of the verse over an instrumental break.