(From Gasoline magazine, based in Toronto, September 2004.)
A Life-Changing Album
reviewer: Early Moses/ex-Econoline Crush frontman Trevor Hurst
classic pick: Killing Joke - Night Time (1985)
Growing up in rural Manitoba made it very hard to find new and interesting music. The hammers, screwdrivers and standard issue rusty pliers found in the back of any pick-up truck were paralleled by what was in the cassette deck -- Guns N Roses, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest, Van Halen, and the occasional Pink Floyd album.
Every small town has dissenters, the odd ones out, who weren't very good at sports, cared little for school spirit and seemed to make the "cool kids" uncomfortable. My town, Virden, was no different and my group of "scary monsters and super freaks" introduced me to a different culture, a different view of the world and, ultimately, to new and innovative bands.
My good friend Conan gave me a mix tape that included Killing Joke's "Love Like Blood." Even amid REM and Black Flag, it sutck out and begged for more investigation. I found a cassette of 1985's Night Time in a Records On Wheels store in Winnipeg. It sounded like an urgent call to arms.
Jaz Coleman's vocal delivery was so different. It was demanding, vulnerable and, at times, on the verge of a scream. Jazseemed almost unpolished, and to me, more honest. Geordie supplied guitar tones and textures that I had never heard before. He was both heavy and soft, ethereal, gothic, haunting and mean. The rhythm section, featuring Paul Ferguson on drums and Paul Raven on bass guitar, were relentless.
The sound generated by this combination of players and personalities, styles and politics, seemed to collide with precision and hypnotize me into listening. I felt like a bystander staring at a car crash. Transfixed and immovable, and listened and learned.
It's the stuff of legend. In 1982, after releasing Revelations, Jaz developed an obsession with the occult, and convinced his mates to abandon all hope and move to Iceland. Jaz believed the apocalypse was near. World intact, Killing Joke returned to England a year later and in 1984, went to Berlin, Germany, to record with producer Chris Kimsey.
The songs were recorded in a style so unlike the Mutt Lange uber production that I was listening to before finding this album. "Night Time," "Darkness Before Dawn," Kings And Queens," were music of their day. The songs seem to channel some dark, sweaty, filth-infested, strung-out eighties club. It's a very visual sound. It was the music of my time. It was the first thing that was mine and it was unique. It's just like reading your first great novel, or really understanding why you like KISS. It's a moment in time that you can't forget. This album was new music to me. But as much as it represented the now, it was somehow the sound of the future.
"Love Like Blood" was then, and is today, a massive goth hit. This song is so far into the matrix, you don't know whether you should take the blue or red pill. It made me think of William Gibson novels, and rainy Vancouver nights with the streets sparkling from the glow of neon signs and lamp posts. "We must play our lives like soldiers in the field/But life is short I'm running faster all the time ... 'Til the fearless come and the act is done/A love like blood, a love like blood." Trent Reznor and Marilyn Manson must love this song.
"Tabazan" is simply brilliant. The bass guitar is so nasty, it makes me smile. Raven is a menace and the sound you hear on this record became his trademark (check out the Prong CD that Raven played on). Geordie's guitar sounds so futuristic, yet it seems like it's crossed with a streetwalker's attitude. Jaz is right on the edge, twisting and pouring through the words like a manic poet and landing effortlessly on any emotion he pleases.
"Europe" stands up today. Could fit very nicely alongside Modest Mouse, Sparta, The Strokes and The White Stripes. There are bands out there now that have discovered this sound and seem to meld it with a Robert Smith vocal. Here and on most of this record, Killing Joke is a band which provides us with personality, that beautiful collision of mind, body and spirit.
"Eighties," the eighth and final track on the recording, is a hard-hitting commentary on the times. "Eighties - I have to push/I have to struggle." Not everyone prospered in those times. There was a lot of unemployment in England. Another interesting thing about this song is that it bears a very striking resemblance to Nirvana's "Come As You Are." (Killing Joke sued Nirvana over the guitar riff but lost.)
Years later, the band I formed, Econoline Crush, went on to cover "Psyche" on our first EP, Purge, in 1993. That irreverent Killing Joke spirit has pushed me to pursue my music even when it seemed impossible. Today, as I begin anew with Early Moses, I carry that spirit with me.
"Within disorder I assume my role/Laugh and cry as I accept." -- "Multitudes," Killing Joke.