Thursday 6 March 2014

A 'Spectre' is Haunting Europe...

They say timing is everything, and if so then there is one particular group of cultural warriors who have hit pay-dirt.

Yes, cheeky iconoclasts Laibach roll into the UK this month (not literally, thankfully) to promote their new album 'Spectre' just as 6,000 (and rising) Russian paramilitaries are occupying parts of the Ukraine. For a band that broke out of the Yugoslavian cultural system only years before the Balkans exploded in a series of brutal wars it must seem that their most satirically bleak predictions have come to pass.

It is hard to recall a more precipitous tour by a major artist. Killing Joke toured the UK during the 1991 Gulf War, which was an irony delicious enough in itself for Jaz Coleman, but other than that it is very rare indeed for a band's music and context to synchronise so well.

So we could forgive them if they laughed the laugh of men & women vindicated. It is hard to believe that their epoch-defining album 'N.A.T.O', which was released in the midst of the Balkan wars, is twenty years old. In the intervening years we all slowly grew to forget the age of land grabs, annexations and European conflict, whilst all the while the Slovenian troupe constantly reminded us that these intractable problems had not gone away.

The 'end of history', the 'war on terror' and 'the hour of Europe' all seem a very long way away now, so perhaps we should all have been paying more attention. Laibach cast a deliciously cynical eye over art, ideologies, nations and structures and told us how dangerous and futile they all were. However, they also pointed out that these things are more durable than the cocky post-modernists of the Blair-Bush years suggested. Now we have a conflict in Europe seemingly devoid of any ideology at all, and the cherished linchpins of modern European security (NATO and the EU) are flailing in the face of a rather retro Russian offensive. All so very 1968, darling, but with 24/7 rolling news coverage and a social media soundtrack to boot (or is that jackboot?)

So we have the sight and sound of an industrial rock act that are formed over 30 years ago actually becoming more relevant with age. It's hard to tell if Laibach are more & more reflecting the times or if the times are more & more reflecting Laibach. Watching the news it almost looks like a giant art installation about the nature of war and the media - but if the combatants get to the stage of blasting rock music at each other a la General Noriega in Panama then don't be surprised if the soundtrack is 'W.A.T' rather than ZZ Top.

Nobody knows where the situation in the Crimea is going, but we do know that these cultural eclipses don't happen very often. So cherish these moments and get down to London on the 12th March to see them...before things get really interesting.

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