Continuing our journey through the fifteen full length Killing Joke albums we arrive at their seventh and undoubtedly their worst received record by both critics and their fan base. The group made a stylistic shift towards the once trending Synthpop sound without any form of subtlety. Having wrapped my head around it I see the negativity as a reaction to what was probably perceived as trend hoping, however being from the distant and mysterious future there is little offense I can take as its no longer relevant. That doesn't let it off the hook though, their are some jarring, rigid and unfortunate moments where it doesn't work, equally some great moments too. The opening track "America" is a fantastic example of good pop song writing, with a hook and catchy chorus. Its cynical lyrics and unsettling, gleaming synths reinforcing underlining the dark, observational message.
The rhythmic identity and tonal guitars are all but absent on this record and its a key part of what defines them, or once did. Equally singer Jaz Coleman steps further outside his normality and flexes his vocals, showing his ability, range and the charm his softer side has, similar to on "Love Like Blood". It sound stunning on the second track when accompanied by lush chorus pedal guitar strumming and can sound equally fluky on "Stay One Jump Ahead" where they play out Synthpop cliches. The records problem is in the rigidity between their natural instincts and the Synthpop characteristics they emulate. There is a couple moments where its awful, mostly mediocre but between them they always drift towards the moody, brooding atmospheres which having a rich set of synths and decent production value sound glorious in their moments, however theirs only a few tracks that hit that mark.
For me that's the record in a nutshell. Its best moments come from the bands leanings to their unique sound and the worst from pop cliches and "moments" in songs you've heard other bands do. It does however not deserve the flack it received in my opinion, the chirpier synth added a welcome dimension when executed with inspiration and it yielded a couple of fantastic songs. Whats interesting is this shift came years after the scenes apparent decline. I'm doubtful the motivation was to scene hop, maybe just to explore an interest in a sound than played out alongside their best years.
Favorite Songs: America, My Love Of This Land, Unto The Ends Of The Earth