|KMFDM - WWIII Tour 2003|
|Written by Dan Macintosh|
|Tuesday, 22 June 2004|
There’s nothing more frustrating than watching a band struggle with an identity crisis. But that’s exactly what is happening during much of this KMFDM live DVD. Although this group was initially associated with the industrial music scene, it now only hints at such an underground association. There are a lot of angry vocals (including Lucia Cifarelli’s female touch) and banging around going on during this performance, but the music of “The WWIII Tour” rarely ever follows the strict structure typified by most industrial noise/music. Instead, its industrial leanings are mixed together with hints of synth dance music, and a little heavy metal. But instead spicing up its foundational base, these additional elements merely muddy the final product. It’s as if KMFDM has declared World War III against itself, and lost.
For the record, this particular DVD documents the group’s recent tour in support of its “WWIII” album. And while recent events -- such as the U.S. invasion of Iraq -- were unquestionably pivotal moments in world history, nothing of late has triggered anything as drastic as a third world war. Nevertheless, KMFDM overdramatically samples George W. Bush’s voice during the opening title track of this concert, all the while suggesting that the “end is [really] near.” (Sample lyric: “World war three/Be all that you can be.”) With a backdrop of flashing lights and the added sound effects of breaking glass, this song mocks the whole concept of American warfare. From listening to it, you’d almost believe that W was a card-carrying anti-Christ, for Pete’s sake! He’s a bad boy, for sure, but not that bad.
Such mockery exposes one of the greatest faults with KMFDM’s new music, and its overall lyrical approach in general. The group is quick to criticize all the things it doesn’t comprehend or like, yet it rarely offers any solutions or alternatives. Watching this group spout its half-baked ideas is a little like listening to a bratty kid who keeps snarling, “That’s stupid!” over and over again. If you’re going to go to all the trouble of critiquing foreign policy, at least have the decency to think through your criticisms and come up with a few constructive suggestions. But the most of this music is simply mockery for shock value.
KMFDM’s inconsistent musical approach is also a nagging irritant here. It swings from the standard-sounding rock of “From Here On Out” to the synth-dance-y “Blackball.” “Brute” has an almost funky synth groove to it – albeit with a metal-ish guitar part filling in the gaps – whereas “Moron” combines synth and guitar for a hyper dance beat tempo. Granted, no band wants to be typecast. But it’s hard to get a handle on just what KMFDM wants to communicate musically, since it’s so all over the map stylistically. Does it want us to get down with our bad selves on a dance floor, or just bang our heads? (We cannot do the both of these mutually exclusive activities at the same time, ya know.) Usually, when a group is trying to do two distinctly different musical tasks at the same time, it ends up doing each of these poorly, and such is the case here. The listener/viewer is never completely convinced that KMFDM is committed to any one particular style, which then makes it hard to commit to enjoying the overall work itself. Of course, some artists seem to feel comfortable wearing many hats, but such eclectic ones comprise a small subgroup. And make no mistake about it: KMFDM is not fit for such an elite band of eclectic artists.
The whole point of releasing live DVDs is to let home viewers in on the experience of seeing a group in concert. In other words, these projects are meant to show viewers what they might have missed by staying at home. This brings up another problem: KMFDM is just not a very visually attractive unit. First of all, this tour looks to have taken place in relatively small clubs. And while intimacy is a wonderful thing if you’re, say, Bruce Springsteen or Bob Dylan (you know, somebody who writes memorable songs and exhibits charm), it’s not such a benefit, however, when you’re an ugly bunch of noisemakers like KMFDM. This is one instance where more visual special effects would have greatly helped – at least to take your eyes off of these uncomely participants onstage intermittently. But no such luck. Instead, it’s just a seemingly endless montage of looking at these average-looking blokes, shouting/singing their below-average songs.
In between songs, clips of the group’s on-the-road antics are mixed in. And – surprise, surprise – these folks are just as unappealing offstage as on. Look, it’s KMFDM shopping at a truck stop and making fun of lowbrow American culture! And what’s that? Could it be one of the group members celebrating a birthday with a birthday cake? How absolutely thrilling! But seriously, is this really ready-for-DVD material? What might be endlessly enthralling for fan web sites is not exactly entertaining to novices or Joe Average Viewers. A live DVD like this one ought to be stating – through both its visual and auditory presentation – exactly what makes a group special and truly DVD-worthy. But none of these little moments help further KMFDM’s cause, or make you want to see more of its inner-workings.
The extras on this project include such things as interviews with band and crew, a tour photos slide show, a fan photo slide show and selected journals from band and crew. You can also own three of the group’s videos. But unless you’re a diehard fan of the group, it’s hard to see why such stuff would be a necessity. It’s just too much of a bad thing.
One starts to get the feeling that KMFDM (along with so many other musical industrialists of its ilk) is trying just a little too hard to find reasons to be angry. As with punk rock, for example, anger just for anger’s sake is not a sound artistic foundation to build upon. Think back to around the time when the U.K. first started making some of its best punk (Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Jam). At this same time, the U.S. also began producing homegrown punk of its own. But while the U.K. had deep economic problems to fuel its punkish rebellion, the U.S. (for the most part) had a lot of bored kids with nothing better to do in the suburbs. And unless you were also a spoiled brat living in a track home, relating to this music would have been troublesome, to say the least. In other words – unlike the U.K. writers/performers -- these U.S. musicians came off as angry, without actually having much worth getting all angry about. The same goes for KMFDM, sadly. Criticizing Bush’s foreign policies is an easy target. And it’s also easy to pretend to get all worked up about what’s happening in the Middle East, rather than coming up with something original to say. But this only results in sound and fury, signifying little to nothing.
KMFDM is only recommended for the drama kings and queens of this world, and the ones who easily get off on such phony escapism. The rest of us can turn our attention to more sincere examples of art – at least until the real World War Three really comes along.