Thanks (But No Thanks) for the Memories, KMFDM

Scout Bar
July 27, 2015

There is a thin line between nostalgia and embarrassment for legacy acts. Watching Gang of Four perform a near-perfect cover-band version of its former self earlier this year at Warehouse Live failed to meet the same enduring spirit of the band’s original lineup. Ministry exists as a caricature of its former self. On the other hand, Justin Broderick’s Godflesh reunion maintained the same sinister sneer of its industrial past, while Swans have ushered in a new era of experimental rock amazement.

This, however, is not the case for KMFDM, now a vestige of its former self. The sole original member, Sascha Konietzko, has performed with a veritable who’s who of industrial music, from Skinny Puppy’s Nivek Ogre and Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson's Chris Vrenna to the incredible Ministry and Revolting Cocks drummer Bill Rieflin. Konietzko reflects the gamut of Germany’s electronic-music history, sure, but pushes forward with the same recipe that does little to inspire novel interest from a new crop of fans.

Monday's set, filled with the stereotypical backdrop of leather-clad mixture of bondage and bikers, adorned with a blend of Futurism and adult-bookstore regalia, bound and gagged their fans corralled at Scout Bar. Kicking off the show with “Money,” the title track from the album bearing the same one-word title (like nearly all of their albums), the band at least sounded well-rehearsed. Live, the songs fall short of sounding just like the original recording. Certainly, they provided a contagious energy; yet KMFDM proceeded to pose and play just like they did in the late ‘80s.

“Rebels in Kontrol” contains one of the baddest bass intros in the industrial-music canon. The groove is spoiled when Lucia Cifarelli does her best Rob Zombie impersonation. One cannot dismiss how a band that once inspired bands like White Zombie are now being influenced by their former acolytes. Even more disparate were the garden-variety political tropes, including “military-industrial complex,” that would titillate many Alex Jones listeners.

“Shake the Cage” furthered the false-flag narratives eulogizing freedom and inspiring revolt, an obvious metaphor for getting the general populace out of its stupor. Sadly, the music created a stupor of its own that inspired narcoleptics to fall asleep while standing up in a deafening environment.

Surveying the room revealed that buyer’s remorse had begun setting in. When “Terror” surged through the speakers, a few heads bobbed through the first verse. The energy did not last. The samples and spoken-word political histrionics have not stood the test of time. Music that should have been left to rot in a time capsule in space forever.

Like “Terror’s” primary lyric, “I tried to keep my faith alive,” I, too, tried my best to trick myself into believing that some saving angel of mercy could salvage this show. “WWIII?” Nope. “A Drug Against War?” There weren’t enough drugs at Scout Bar to erase the disturbing memory of a once-great band with an even greater catalog of songs.

An obligatory encore ensued. Many remained either out of guilt, drunkenness or a combination of both. I wish “Adios” contained a more literal meaning; namely that the band would end its attempt at calling what was once an extraordinary live industrial act KMFDM. Chillingly, no irony existed. Today the label KMFDM stands for nothing more than a mere marketing term to generate income for aging musicians with thinned pockets and a desperate panic of what economic perils tomorrow brings.

Surely, Konietzko does not have to endure the trials and tribulations of a touring act. A labor of love sometimes requires self-deception. Front Line Assembly has released some of their finest work in their latter days. Front 242 continues to push musical boundaries and faintly sound like their former selves. But KMFDM keeps trotting out this drivel bearing the same name with a marketing scheme that rivals Crystal Pepsi.

A Caution: Rock and roll old-timers games need to cease. God bless Morrissey for not wanting to summon up The Smiths for the same begrudging reason. Props to Fugazi for staying on hiatus and proceeding onto other endeavors. Watching Bad Company under a patio at a retirement home is coming to a neighborhood near you between shuffleboard and the early bird special at Denny’s.

KMFDM is further evidence that you need to be a transformative band who constantly shape-shifts and reevaluates their art in order to last. It is time to hang up the bondage gear, leather pants and ‘80s political-conspiracy bromides, ladies and gentlemen. 
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Stephan Wyatt