Best 3 Songs Per Album: KMFDM

Posted: November 25, 2013 in Best 3 Songs Per Album
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KMFDM were among the first industrial bands I ever heard, when a friend loaned me the single for More & Faster.  It contained 3 tracks, all of which are classics–besides the title track, it also included Rip The System and Naff Off.  Okay, so maybe Naff Off is just a personal favorite, but I think the other two are widely considered classics.

I have a few gaps in my KMFDM collection, so there will be some albums not appearing on this list.  This includes their very first album, What Do You Know Deutschland?.  In the past I’ve listened to clips and never found any compelling reason to pick this one up.  However, in reviewing clips just now I discovered that Naff Off and Itchy Bitchy are basically two versions of the same song.  Except for that album, my collection is fairly complete up until the last 5 releases, which I never purchased.  I basically lost interest in acquiring more of KMFDM’s sound because I felt like they were just doing the same thing over and over and there was little new to experience anymore.  So since I’m not familiar with their latest releases at all other than brief clips, this list doesn’t include them.

Don’t Blow Your Top

KMFDM - Dont Blow Your Top

KMFDM’s 2nd album is the first one I’ll cover.  After being blown away by the More & Faster single, I asked my friend for more from the band and he gave me this album.  It was decidedly different and somewhat of a surprise.  It’s a very strange and quirky album which I couldn’t really get into then, and I still can’t really get into now.  I find that generally I’m not a fan of much that Raymond Watts contributes to, with the notable exception of Nihil we’ll get to in a bit, and his sound is all over this album.  I’ll try to pick three favorites:

  • Don’t Blow Your Top — This song is a blueprint for the signature sound which KMFDM would adopt and retain throughout much of the band’s career.  It doesn’t really sound like anything else on this album, but it does sound a lot like many of their songs on subsequent releases.
  • Disgust — This song has a cool bassline and good percussion.
  • Oh Look — I begrudgingly list this as a third favorite just to complete the list, not because I like it but because I don’t dislike it as much as the rest of the offerings.

Honorable Mention: None

Worst Song: So many to choose from!  I honestly can’t narrow it down.

UAIOE

KMFDM - UAIOE

This album also has it s quirky moments, such as the strong inexplicable reggae influence on several tracks, but I found it much more palatable than the previous release and there are songs on this one I genuinely like.  My top three:

  • More and Faster 243 — It’s not the same version that I originally heard on the single, but it’s close enough that this supplants it in my memory.  A real classic and one of the songs which cemented my fanaticism for industrial music for decades to come.  It also may be the first example of their self-deprecating humor which they would revisit years later on songs such as Sucks.
  • En Esch — A solid rocker that is a precursor to the more guitar-heavy sound which would become their bread and butter.
  • Thumb Thumb — This song was a late discovery for me, somehow I didn’t take notice of it until after I’d listened to the album many times.  But this is a great song with a driving beat and a lot of energy.  I wish the production on it was a bit cleaner, though.

Honorable Mention: Uaioe, Loving Can Be an Art, Thrash Up!

Worst Song: I’m going to say Rip The System, only because the reggae remix offered on this album pales before the greatness of the original single version.  This song is one of their all-time greats, but you wouldn’t really know it from listening to the version they included on UAIOE.

Naïve

KMFDM - Naive

Many fans hail this as one of the band’s greatest albums.  I’m afraid I can’t quite agree.  I originally bought it on cassette and I remember listening to it heavily back in the days when industrial was still very fresh and new for me, but eventually it faded from memory as I switched to listening to things on CD and all my cassettes started receiving less attention.  Many years later I was surprised to hear lots of praise for it and thought I’d revisit it and perhaps pick up the CD release, but when I went back I found that I didn’t actually like very many of the tracks.  This album does show KFMDM solidifying into their signature sound, though, so I can see why people would like it more than anything released previously.  Apparently this album was out of print for a long time due to legal issues with a sample used in the song Liebesleid, but was later reissued with an edited version of that song.  Wikipedia says the original release is now considered a collector’s item. I  wonder if my old cassette is worth some cash?  My three favorite songs from this one:

  • Go To Hell — This was a standout track to me from the very beginning, and it remains just about the only song from this album that I would want in my current rotation.  Stomping beat, angry guitar, and bombastic lyrics — everything that would make them arguably one of the more successful bands to come out of the industrial scene.
  • Liebesleid — Some great percussion on this one, everything else is secondary.
  • Virus — A fun song, I think a bit too noisy in the original version but the Dub remix on the full album cleans it up a bit.  I think this is hailed as one of their best songs from the early years, but it didn’t have such a big impact on me.

Honorable Mention: Godlike

Worst Song: It’s a tough call, but I’ll go with Friede just because that wah-wah guitar really annoys me.

Money

KMFDM - Money

I picked up the single for Vogue which was preceded this full album, and I remember being blown away by it — it seemed like a real step up for the band, particularly in terms of production.  I really liked Money when it first came out, I’m pretty sure I considered it my favorite KMFDM album for a time.  Alas, these days I find it a fairly boring album with a lot of plodding songs.  This album also seems to have some early examples of KMFDM stealing from themselves, something that seemed to become more common as time went on.  I’m positive that the main riff in Bargeld has been used elsewhere, perhaps in Sasha’s side project Excessive Force?  Also, the song I Will Pray uses the same Slayer guitar sample that they used in Godlike on the previous album.  My favorite three from this album are:

  • Money — A classic KMFDM song, catchy lyrics and some good song structure.
  • Vogue — Perhaps stronger than Money, it’s the other of the album’s main two highlights.  I have the nagging feeling that the single version was better, but I just did a little digging and it sounds more or less the same as this album version.
  • Under Satan (Dub) — Choosing a third favorite was more difficult because frankly nothing besides the aforementioned two tracks really grabs my attention.  I chose this because it’s almost a KMFDM great, but not quite.  It has some quirky samples including a little kid’s voice also heard two tracks previously on I Will Pray, and it’s missing vocals which for me are almost a necessary component to really catapult a song to greatness.

Honorable Mention: Sex on the Flag, We Must Awaken

Worst Song: I Will Pray

Angst

KMFDM - Angst

You could say that this album marked the beginning of a new stage in KMFDM’s career.  The template laid down here largely defined what they’d do on each subsequent release.  I remember being really excited about this album when it first came out.  Eventually there were just a few tracks from this album which I continued to keep in rotation, but in reviewing the whole album for this blog I’m a bit surprised by how strong it remains — there’s really just one stinker on the whole tracklist, and I should probably add some more of these songs back into the catalog of things I currently listen to.  My three favorites:

  • Hole in the Wall — For me, this is one of the greatest KMFDM songs of all time.  It is so dark and so serious, it almost seems like it was written by a different band.  But at the same time, it still has that signature KMFDM sound.
  • Glory — Just a driving energetic song, I remember the kick drum sound being amazingly heavy when I first heard this track.
  • Light — My first instinct was not to choose this song, but it has a lot of interesting things going on including a guitar riff that is hard to get out of my head once I’ve heard it.

Honorable Mention: I know many readers are probably shocked that I don’t have A Drug Against War and Sucks on my favorites list.  Those are both fun tracks, and actually, perhaps I should reconsider the former.  But the latter is good mainly because of the humorous lyrics, not the music.  Every song on this album has something interesting about it, though, except for…

Worst Song: The Problem — I don’t get this song, it doesn’t fit in with the album and all and it sounds like they were just doing a favor to their female vocalist by letting her have a track to herself.  This song gets skipped every time I play this album.

Nihil

KMFDM - Nihil

For me, this is KMFDM’s masterpiece.  I said earlier that I’m not a fan of the sound Raymond Watts brings to most things, but this album is the exception — the strongest tracks on this album seem to benefit from his involvement.  I saw the band play live during this tour, and sometimes seeing a band performing songs live will make me appreciate those songs more, but in this case I’d already recognized the greatness of this disc before seeing them.  A little while after this album was released, there was a big party thrown by my employer and they’d hired a DJ.  One of the first songs he played was Juke Joint Jezebel, and that’s when I knew KMFDM had really hit the big time.  Probably most of the people at that party didn’t know the song or the band, but I knew, and it was remarkable to me that they’d reached such a level of exposure.

The songs on this album seem to be ordered in a particular fashion:  The odd-numbered tracks seem to feature heavy involvement from Watts and are somewhat different from what the band’s usual sound, whereas the even-numbered tracks are more traditional KMFDM music.  I like virtually every song on this disc, but I do tend to favor the odd-numbered ones.  There are so many great songs on this album that it will be hard to choose a best three, but here we go:

  • Disobedience — This is, hands down, the best song KMFDM has ever released.  I just love everything about it.  It’s perfectly structured, with several great parts, and I love the way the guitar and horns play together.  Perhaps it’s more of a rock song than an industrial song, but that doesn’t make it any less great.
  • Terror — This song is all about the chorus, and it’s a great one that’s really fun to sing along with.
  • Brute — I love the dark, pounding sound of this track and the chorus has some powerfully dark lyrics that, again, you want to sing along with.  “Brutalize me / I will heal!”

Honorable Mention: Juke Joint Jezebel is probably the most recognized song from this album, and I do think the chorus is amazing, but I think the verses are boring.  I’d guess the band, or at least a label executive, thought the same thing because I’m pretty sure I’ve heard remixes that basically get rid of the verses so that listeners can have easier access to the catchy chorus.  But really, every song on this album is strong and deserves a mention.

Worst Song: Nihil — I can really appreciate some ambient dissonance when I’m in the right frame of mind, but KMFDM is not the band to deliver that style.

Xtort

KMFDM - Xtort

Even though I loved Nihil, I didn’t pick up the followup album Xtort until many years after it had been released.  I recall hearing very negative things about it and I didn’t like the clips that I’d heard, so I gave this one a wide berth.  Years later when I revisited clips, I was surprised by how much I liked them and so I finally purchased the full album.  This feels like a very back-to-basics KMFDM, which is a good thing, and I consider this one of their best releases.  If the reviews on iTunes are any indication, the negativity I remember upon release appears to have turned around and now the album seems highly regarded. My favorite three songs are:

  • Apathy — This is another fast-tempo song like A Drug Against War from two albums ago, but I think I find Apathy more interesting.
  • Rules — This is a slow, groovy track, the kind of song which is common on their album Money and which I’m not usually fond of, but this one is catchy.
  • Craze — I like how this is high-energy during the verses, and then slows down for the chorus with the monotone vocal delivery.

Honorable Mention: Power, Inane, Blame, Son of a Gun

Worst Song: Ikons, which isn’t really that bad, but I don’t like the chunky verses with the bad vocals.

Symbols

KMFDM - Symbols

This is a popular album, and it does have some good tracks on it, but for me this sorta marks the beginning of the end for me as a KMFDM fan.  I was momentarily excited about it, but these days I only find a few tracks worth listening to.  I’m not a fan of Tim Skold’s vocals, I think Ogre’s guest vocals don’t fit at all with the KMFDM sound, and Raymond Watts is back to doing things I don’t like such as the song with the vile title Spit Sperm.  Plus, the bombastic lyrics that KMFDM has always featured somehow started to sound a bit forced or disingenuous, perhaps a bit immature, starting with this album.  My three favorites would be:

  • Megalomaniacal — Very slick song, a KMFDM classic.  I remember it being the highlight of seeing the film Mortal Kombat in the theater.
  • Leid und Elend — Musically, this is probably my favorite song on the disc.  The vocals weaken it a little, though.
  • Mercy — Nothing remarkable about the verses, but the chorus is amazing!  This album needed more moments like that.

Honorable Mention: I like Stray Bullet but the lyrics make me roll my eyes too often for it to be considered a favorite.

Worst Song: There are a lot of candidates, but I think I’ll go with Torture just because to me it sounds like the music and vocals were done in complete isolation, without knowledge of each other.  Ogre and KMFDM just don’t mix well in my opinion.

Adios

KMFDM - Adios

I remember the confusion surrounding this album.  Was KMFDM really breaking up?  They actually did after this album, for a while at least, with Sasha forming the asinine-in-concept MFDMK project which wasn’t different enough to warrant being considered a new band at all.  I hate all the drama, hate that En Esch and Gunter Shulz were forced out and I prefer their subsequent project Slick Idiot over anything that Sasha would do without them as KMFDM.  But overall I do find this album to be pretty strong and a big step up from Symbols.  This is their last album for Wax Trax, and I do have to respect them for sticking with the classic label for so long while most of their labelmates had jumped ship at some point previous.  My top three favorites:

  • Sycophant — Catchy little song, and I love the stabs of aggressive percussion that appear hear and there.
  • Witness — I think a lot of the time, the addition of female vocals in KMFDM songs is a bit overrated and detracts rather than adds to the song.  Here, though, where there are only female vocals, it works great.  This is a quirky song with weird lyrics, but it’s fun to listen to.
  • Adios — KMFDM doing their typical bombast, but doing it well here.

Honorable Mention: D.I.Y. and R.U.OK?

Worst Song: A tie between That’s All and Full Worm Garden — as I mentioned before, I think KMFDM and Ogre are two flavors that just don’t work well together.

Attak

KMFDM - Attak

This album was technically the return of the band, after breaking up and reforming briefly with a different lineup as MDFMK.  There are some interesting tracks here, but by this time my interest in the band had really started to decline so this didn’t get as much play as previous albums.  Three favorites:

  • Skurk — The chorus is really catchy and usually has me singing along; a fun song overall.
  • Sturm & Drang — KMFDM at their bombastic best; top track on the album.
  • Risen — A nice, aggressive groove to this one.

Honorable Mention: Dirty and Save Me, the latter mainly for the chorus.  It’s archetypical Tim Skold, which usually I don’t like, but it works well here.

Worst Song: Either Yohoho, because there’s not much going on, or Preach/Pervert because outside of the Nihil album I just don’t find Raymond Watts’ contributions all that appealing.

WWIII

KMFDM -- WWIII

This is it, the last album I purchased from KMFDM before I determined that I was no longer interested in their sound.  This album got even less play than the previous one and I had to review the whole thing just to remember what songs it offered. In doing so, I mainly reminded myself of why no song on this album got ripped into my iPhone library except the title track.  I just don’t like this album at all.  But in keeping with the theme of this post, my favorite three are:

  • WWIII — This is a lot more heavy and metal-sounding than usual for the band, and it could almost be considered a Ministry song if not for the instantly recognizable vocal stylings of Sasha.
  • From Here On Out — This seems to be pretty solid, it could possibly be put back into rotation if I was looking to change things up a bit.
  • Intro — Not particularly interesting musically, but the lyrics are funny how they introduce each member of the band.  However, every time I listen to this I’m reminded of the song Linger Fickin’ Good by Revolting Cocks which does the same thing but in a much more interesting way.

Honorable Mention: Moron doesn’t seem too bad

Worst Song: Since most of the album doesn’t interest me, it’s hard to put in the effort to pick one that is worse than the others.

Newer albums not covered in this list: Hau Ruck, Tohuvabohu, Blitz, WTF?!, and Kunst

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Comments
  1. Ward says:

    Wow–I thought WWIII was a huge improvement over Attak. We have similar tastes on the early albums but totally different later on. On Attak I liked #4 and #7 the most, followed by #5 and #9 for honorable mention. I also thought that WWIII was the best KMFDM album since Nihil. Give it more time. =)

  2. torchie4269 says:

    WWIII is probably the group’s worst album. Hau Ruck is much better, as is Tohuvabohu. Blitz is uneven, WTF?! is great, and everything after that has been meh. If I had to recommend one to pick up I’d say WTF?!.

  3. James Dinger says:

    It is really too bad you stopped listening to KMFDM after WWIII – for their return with Attak and WWIII they shifted to a more nu-metal sound, but returned to their more traditional industrial sound with Hau Ruck. If you ever do decide getting in to KMFDM again, try listening to Hau Ruck. They are not so metallic as they were in the two previous albums. Also, WTF?! is well done as well.

    One thing I have to say though – Dogma totally needs to be at least mentioned somewhere in the Xtort section!

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