(From the Boston Globe, US daily, 9 February 1991.)
Killing Joke Have a Lot to Rail Against - but You Just Can't Make It Out
by Jim Sullivan
You've never been able to
accuse Killing Joke - particularly singer-songwriter Jaz Coleman - of not having
an attitude. Killing Joke, one of Britain's prime post-punk mainstays, has
always been full of attitude. Even when they took a public hiatus during the
late '80s, you suspected that attitude was still out there festering away in
some dark closet, revving up for an appropriately antagonistic response to an
even nastier era.
Here we are in 1991, at war and in the midst of a recession. Time for Killing Joke! Sure enough, Coleman had a re-written verse condemining the Baghdad bombings in one song. Killing Joke is a loud, fierce industrial-styled rock band that sees the proverbial glass of water and always pronounces it half-empty. Greed, war and pollution are some of Killing Joke's favorite things to rail against.
One problem at Axis Thursday night, as it's been during previous KJ encounters, is Coleman's words are virtually impossible to pick out of the massive sound careening around him, leaving you with the impression that the theatrically-inclined, gesture-obsessed singer in the black greasepaint is surely agitated about something, but the specifics get somewhat lost in the mix. Between songs, Coleman has a tendency to belabor the obvious, and before "Complications," the crowd was informed "The Middle East is gonna affect your life!" Duh. Another problem: Though Killing Joke was there at the birth of this whole mad-as-hell-industrial genre, they've since been surpassed by bands such as Ministry and Nine Inch Nails. Much of Thursday's 70-minute set had a somewhat static quality - at odds with the uninhibited, dark tribalism the band used to concoct.
Does this sound like no fun? Actually, there was some fun. The slow, moody opener "Termite Mound" built to a shattering climax, with stereo effects buzzing about the room; "Change" was its usual ball of frenzied nastiness; "Requiem" had an affecting regal quality. Perhaps, the major hitch in the Killing Joke scheme of things is that Coleman's quintet is not as flat-out sharp or as impressive as he seems to think it is. The more he over-emphasizes a line or a gesture, the more you sigh, "Yeah, I know, I know, hell-in-a-handbasket, I know . . ."