(From Sounds, UK music magazine, 25 June 1988. Thanks to Rasheed Alaqah.)
The Joke Backfires
by Sam King
Paranoid is not the word. From his earliest moments -- the brittle, funky 'Nervous System', the void of 'Requiem' -- Jaz Coleman, the man behind the joke, has been suitably scared.
He's seen nihilism in nothing, a conspiracy behind every guitar chord, and has complemented it all with the agoraphobia of the permanently dispossessed. The result has been a kind of vinyl Repulsion, with Jaz taking the place of director Roman Polanski.
Nothing has changed. He still sees a massive power conspiracy where, in truth, there's nothing but normal business anarchy. He still spies The Manipulator in his high tower. Only this time the whole thing's a great deal more forced, more laboured.
The splendid, emotionless guitar used so effectively by Coleman's longtime collaborator Geordie has been criminally muted here, its vacant atmospherics now just another noise in the background, a slave to Coleman's Supertramp style keyboard work.
The grinding, numbing power of the early LPs, which became strangely muted on the last couple of releases, has finally disappeared. All that's left is an undesirable maze of pseudo Americana that fails to project Coleman's latest conspiracy theory.
For in 'Outside The Gate', Coleman has reached his end. He's taken his theory, his paranoia and the fate of the planet to the limit. For him, the end of the world is at hand and he's even given us the 'sell by' date.
The title track, a failed piece of pompous melodrama, spells it out in full. "Power stations and power games/This sickness called society ... There is no escape in the waking world from that which is approaching us fast!" From 'Tiahuanaco' to 'America' (the current dire single), Coleman has plumbed the depths and hit the heights, seeing "a weeping god in the eyes of a child" and a place "where everybody has his price". And still there's no salvation.
In fact there's precious little to attract us to 'Outside The Gate'. It's a stodgy, inconclusive LP that fails in all but the most basic of senses to to achieve its end, leaving us feeling soured and unimpressed. In a way, however, it is the ultimate Killing Joke LP: nihilistic, unfettered, tedious to the last second.