Songs Of The Day 5/7/2016: 5 by Laibach

Quarterly Covers Report – Before Rammstein changed the world with its cunning blend of totalitarianism, sexual deviance and hostility, there was Laibach. Now they were a cavalcade of delight on their best days. They seemed a typically German industrial band, except they were from Slovenia. Like some of the more pricking entrants in the early punk rock era, they had themselves some fun with Nazi symbolism, or at least images that looked like they should have been part of Nazi symbolism. This of course less to speculation as to whether Laibach harbored supremacist sentiments themselves, which they did not, although it took a few years of half-serious interviews to get to the bottom of that. In actuality Laibach are (present tense) a cross-media unit filled with who seem to be well-adjusted artists, taking their name from the German translation of their homeland capital Ljubljana. The city was taken by the Italian fascists and eventually turned over to the Nazis in 1943. Yugoslavia eventually got it back. Then Yugoslavia imploded itself, and a bunch of mail got returned to sender.

Laibach had a lot on its agenda, way more than the scope of this facile, trifling webspace will allow. "Cultural criticism" is how they describe it. That's fair. I like to criticize culture from time to time when I have out-of-town visitors. As you might deduce, taking music with fascist overtones and using it to do cover versions is a tactic that seems to write itself. (Well, cover itself.) That's where Laibach really made their most poignant points.

They redid almost the entire Beatles' album Let It Be - in terms of lyrics perhaps their least substantial work - and turned it into an autocrat's workout music. Laibach also made a project with seven different interpretations of the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil." Their album NATO featured songs concerned with war, including "The Final Countdown," which you have to consider kind of a gimme. And then there's Laibach's reworking of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar, a blaspheme-fest that almost justifies anything they ever tried to do.

Fun fact: Last year Laibach became the first band from the West to do a show in North Korea. Rolling Stone had an interesting interview with member Ivo Saliger about their trip, during which they played songs from The Sound of Music in Pyongyang's Ponghwa Theatre and did an acoustic set at a local music school. How much culture can one group criticize in one vacation?

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