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Killing Joke – The Singles Collection 1979-2012

Killing JokeThey were living in the 80s, and so was Howlin’ Whippet. Our rock and roll preacher man takes a look across over 30 years of industrial anger from the band once described as ‘like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse…but louder.’

Given the longevity of career, not to mention the many labels that Killing Joke found themselves on, a compilation/box set has long been on many fans radar. There is, of course, the gather-up of Malicious Damage/EG releases on 1992 release Laugh? I Nearly Bought One which is a good primer, but most fans of the band will have all of these songs several times over already.

The singles box set spans the whole KJ 7- and 12- inch oeuvre; I was disappointed that the B-sides weren’t included (although they are on a Super Deluxe edition via Pledgemusic) as they are some of Killing Jokes’ most powerful releases. Who can argue that ‘Are You Receiving?’ isn’t one of the greatest slabs of sheer muscular energy ever recorded? Not me, that’s for sure.

It would have been good to have it on the regular release but that’s a small quibble in this, one of the year’s best re-releases to date. The first two CDs are the singles proper, from 79’s’ Turn To Red’ right up to 2012’s ‘Corporate Elect’. The third CD in this edition is rarities and oddities.
If you’re reading this, you probably don’t need an introduction to Killing Joke’s singles; they are all utterly wonderful and still not quite like anything else out there.

‘Wardance’ is violent, spellbinding and was taking punk rock to an entirely new place. This was a game-changer for many punk fans and the influence persists to this day.  ‘Follow The Leaders’ this decimated dancefloors all across the world and it still sounds vital, spitting rage like no other band quite managed.

And then there’s ‘Eighties’ with that guitar sound. No-one sounds like Geordie. His guitar sounds like the end of the world has just arrived.

Killing Joke fans, the “Gatherers,” are nothing if not completists and the rarities disc, for them, probably holds the most interest.  And they are all, mostly, real rarities. There are three unreleased songs from 2010’s Absolute Dissent and another three from movie soundtracks and previously unavailable until now amongst the alternative, dub and demo cuts.

If you listen to any hardcore Killing Joke fan, you’ll know that there is an apparent plethora of unreleased demos, rough cuts and other material that has taken on almost mystical proportions. It wouldn’t be Killing Joke though, if they didn’t have a bit of mystique about them, would it?
Is there another career-spanning box set in the offing? Who knows? The movie documentary is due out soon and it would make commercial, if not artistic sense to release something then.

It makes you wonder, I guess, who this compilation is aimed at; gatherers will have, erm, gathered all of the first two discs material several times over and probably only need the bonus discs for completist purposes. There’s nothing truly essential, although there’s nothing that’s not at least very good.

People who are new to the band probably don’t need all of the dub versions and radio edits but cutting to the chase, if you’d never heard Killing Joke, this is a good place to start. Although I’d personally recommend seeing them live as a first step.

Some fans are calling this a rip-off and quoting the KJ title ‘Money Is Not Our God’.  I’ll reserve judgement.

Having all of the singles in one place isn’t a bad thing and at least it isn’t over a hundred quid like some boxsets I could name.  Hello, The Clash and Columbia Records.  But that’s for another day.

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