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Laibach (live at the Festival of Central European Culture)

The Festival of Central European Culture
Queen Elizabeth Hall,The South Bank Centre, London
10th July 1998

Across between political rally, religious service and Thrash Metal gig, tonight’s appearance in the centre of High Art’s temple of culture simultaneously enthralls and overpowers with meta-kitsch imagery and extreme volume. From the mechanistic coupling of video projections with the thunderous music, via the part-Rock, part- militaristic poses thrown by the band, to the choice of covers of Europop and Seventies Rock anthems, Laibach are decidedly worrying. What causes the nervousness is the sheer force of the devices involved. Black banners with silver insignia, smoke machines, strobes and Thrash solos; bare chests, computer graphics and Industrial beats; knife- edge irony and uncompromising, straight-faced confrontation with the very soul (or lack thereof) of post-Cold War, post-religious, consumerist culture.

Whether Laibach’s performance would have drawn the unwary into the trap of mass participation in fascistic communion which underlies both stadium rock and mass worship is debatable. Their full-on immersion in the signs and symbols of totalitarianism is thankfully matched by an intellectual rigour which dispels any confusion that they might actually be neo-Nazis – what they are doing is holding up a mirror as a warning of what the Millenium might hold, and reflection on what the last century has discarded. Apocalyptic warnings on the subject of the impending year change are hardly scarce, but few are as frighteningly powerful as Laibach’s.

Witnessing the onslaught of “The Kingdom of God” is to be taken on a rollercoaster ride from hilarity to reflection, as is the merciless reconstruction of “Jesus Christ Superstar”. Anyone who abuses “In The Army Now” the way Laibach do – pomp-rock style – has not only a fine sense of humour, but (considering the war in former Yugoslavia on their doorstep) a sense of purpose which shatters the usual self-reflective hedonism of most pop music (in its broadest possible sense). An experience of the metaphysical dread absurdity of industrial rock, Laibach provide a suitably cathartic recapitulation to the Twentieth Century symphony.


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