Killing Joke – In Excelsis

Anyone that knows me knows that this year I have been completely obsessed with listening to Killing Joke. I’ve listened to an album a day for almost every day for six months on my walk to work. I’ve even been studying Killing Joke albums that I loathe, the ones between 1983 and 1993 when Jaz Coleman had a bit of a breakdown of sorts, had his hair permed, grew a moustache, thought the world was about to end and Killing Joke the band went all Simple Minds on me. Bad times, bad albums… still.

I don’t consider myself the OCD type at all but I have to admit that it has to be slightly obsessed, to listen to stuff you don’t like in the hope that somehow you learn to love it. It’s like torture. You can browse both the good and the bad Joke stuff on the Dipity timeline I made of Killing Joke’s career here… or in my You Tube Killing Joke playlist here (which also has relevant bands in too)… ahem… Not obsessed at all.

I don’t really know why I like Killing Joke that much. Of course, everyone has the band, which for them just seemed to have meant so much, you know, when you were 14 or 15… don’t they? For most people I guess they grow out of it, or the band turns crap, like Adam & the Ants and Death Cult did or they break up or music simply starts to matter less.

All of these happened with Killing Joke, but in 1994 whilst I was stripping wallpaper, they got back together again and started making that strange discordant noise that only they can do … listen to Whiteout (spotify link) or Exorcism (spotify link) from the Pandemonium album and tell me it’s not the most noisiest fantastic din ever created). The latter was recorded in a Great Pyramid and has coughs in (like a lot of Killing Joke songs)  dontchaknow.

I mean, try to these two live songs below on YouTube (only 87 views btw), Requiem (one of their first) and Total Invasion (one of the most recent) and they’re pure punk… with a hint of disco. Guitars you can dance to. If you wanted.

I relax to this (The Hum from Revelations). Killing Joke are my whales singing… my birds tweeting in a forest… by a sea with crashing waves…

And so, on the longest day (yesterday), Killing Joke have release an EP called  In Excelsis (go listen for free) which I’m not so sure about.  It has a dub track which is fun and Endgame sounds to me like Lemmy from Motorhead (no bad thing) but it’s not quite Killing Joke, or rather the Killing Joke I love which falls between 1980 – 1984 and 1994 and now ( please don’t listen to Love Like Blood or Sanity or America which are so bad I still get embarrassed for them). I’ve give it another few thousand listens before I pass judgement but at the moment… I’m slightly disappointed…

Anyway, I have been both worrying about my ever increasing Killing Joke obsession and at the same time writing a TV script (a bit like those wonderful Rock Family Trees show) to explain “Why Killing Joke Are Ace” to my mate Dave because I’ve got tickets to see them in October and he needs a little persuasion that they, and not Pink Floyd are the best bend that ever walked the earth – even if they did go a little potty in the 80s… I mean, who didn’t?

22 thoughts on “Killing Joke – In Excelsis”

  1. Tom:

    I have to echo a lot of what you have said here about being obsessed with KJ. They are one of the most unique and unpredictable bands since The Doors; trendiness and vapid posturing hold no sway over them! They are true to their own spirits, for better or for worse. This is so rare in the music industry and they have my undying respect for that reason alone.

    I also concur (did I just use that word?) with your impressions of the ‘bad’ years. After Paul Ferguson left, Jaz got a bit swept up in his own ego, I think. Too much power…or something along those lines..etc. When he shifted into a more metal sound, he found himself a new niche that seems to suit them well, but I still also love the more tribal drumming sound that Big Paul imbued them with originally. It thrills me to no end that the original group is all back together, notwithstanding the fact that I still also consider Raven as part of the main core of KJ. Both sounds intrigue me and that is why I don’t agree with your assessment of Love Like Blood and Sanity. Granted, they are not my favorites, but they are musically solid and lyrical. These songs have their place, depending on my mood.

    Anyway, as an American female who didn’t find KJ until around 1985 (the Nighttime album), it set me off into their realm, and with some lagging years, they have been one of my most cherished ‘finds’ EVER! I really draw energy from listening to their music, and for me is almost a spiritual experience. It certainly is equal to any power ritual one could experience and very much akin to a psycho-drama, purging your everyday frustrations, anger and apathy. At the same time, it inflames my libido and gets me buzzed up. As with all things of real quality, this is timeless music. Trends will come and go, but KJ will stand firmly on top of the myriad of dross that has come and gone over the decades.

    I have listened to the songs pre-released from the upcoming album several times, and find them excellent, especially Endgame, In Excelsis and Ghost of Ladbroke Grove (not the Dub version). I can’t say they are fantastic,but I’m not disappointed either. I am hoping the actual album will have the best stuff though. I don’t think it has been decided for sure if all those songs will be on the final album or not. But a few more repetitions are in order to make a full assessment, so I’m still geeked about it.

    Well, thank you for posting your thoughts on Killing Joke. Tell your buddy that it’s not an ‘either/or’ situation to appreciate the Joke over Pink Floyd. They each have their place. I have tickets to see them here in the States in December, and I can hardly contain my excitement (my husband thinks I’m a bit mad really). Hope to hear more of your impressions.

    -Nadine

  2. What I miss on these tracks is drumming that clearly signals it’s Big Paul behind the kit. He’s just keeping time here like any other drummer, rather than hammering out those tribal rhythms he’s known for.

    Still, not a bad release at all, and it makes me look forward to the full album all the more to hear how the whole thing finally shakes down.

  3. This obsession I know, been into KJ for a very long time. My gateway to them at the time was Night Time, BTATS and Outside The Gate albums. I had not developed a taste for really heavy music back then and did not like the first 3 albums when I checked them out. Then I kinda forgot all about them for few years until “92” when I came across used copy of Extremities, Dirt And Various Repressed Emotions which I bought on the spot and brought home to play right away. I was very impressed ( had developed a taste for hard hitting rock and metal by then) and been badly obsessed with this remarkable band since, today I love the first albums too and the period from 1991 to present has been great,even give NT, BTATS and OTG a spin now and again, loved Hosannas and still do, pretty stoked by the new songs, especially Kali Yuga and Ghost Of Ladbroke Grove. Feast of Fools is eagerly waited for by this one…so it better be good 🙂

  4. @Lemmy I know what you mean about Big Paul… I don’t know if you’ve noticed (I’ve just been looking on YouTube but can’t find it) but Big Paul used to have a drum kit with no cymbals.

    I love no cymbals. Big Paul is my favourite drummer, not just the tribal low tom stuff, because Requiem is pretty standard stuff but you can tell that someone is really bloody clattering the drums.

  5. @nadine it thrills me no end too… I also concur…

    I’ve been forcing myself to listen to the “middle years” and I’m slowly coming round. I even found myself not coming out in hives to “Love Like Blood”…

    @InsideBildeberg Nightime, to me, still sounds like Killing Joke apeing eurotrash disco to me… which is understandable, they were hanging out in Berlin and in the mood for a change… or to put it another way, having a complete mental breakdown.

    I’m listening to the new EP, and so far, for me, Endgame is the only “keeper”… that one has a new lyrical style for Jaz… much less ploddy, less “man watch-ing vid-eo”… and more subterranean homesick blues.

  6. Got to say, i love the Joke when they are heaviest and industrial. I have to speak up for the Nightime era. Maybe its being English but Love Like Blood, Kings & Queens, and Eighties are epic tracks. I guess it might stir us Brits more with its sorta football terrace vibe.
    Gotta say that i am loving In Excelsis. Its sublime. Beautiful. Vive La Joke!!!

  7. I’m a long time fan – first heard them on peel in 1980 and first saw them at the hacienda in 1983. I was expecting big tribal drums and clear production with paul and youth back in the fold but it still sounds a bit muddy to my untrained ears and the drums do seem a bit dull. I do like the big choruses on in exelsis and endgame though and they seem to get better with repeat plays.

    They had a couple of good new songs at the gigs last year and at the town and country two years ago. Timewave was one – not sure about the other one.

    @tom – thanks for the link to the exit video. It helped me track down my favourite empire song video from top of the pops with paul on vocals and a gaffa taped dummy stuck to a swivel chair meant to represent jaz.

  8. I love Killing Joke and have been a massive fan since the 1st album, they are in my top 5 Punk bands of all time with Sex Pistols, The Clash, Stiff Little Fingers and Buzzcocks. I think their best albums are 2003, Pandemonium and Extremities. Worst albums Hosannas and Outside The Gate, apart from America which is BRILLIANT, 2nd best song they have ever done, especially the 12″ version. Love Like Blood is the best! Sanity is also a classic. I have seen them 10 times and will be going in Oct to Apollo. The best live gig was The Forum, Sat night, Pandemonium. The worst Wulfrun hall Wolves 2003, the sound was abysmal. Look forward to new album, the spirits alive !

  9. First, I must excuse for my english. I´m a 36 year old colombian living in Spain. I found KJ in the mid 90´s obsessed by the industrial music (we´re all disturbed minds here!!) and get a copy of PANDEMONIUM.
    I found it so amazing that, even now, wonder if by buying it again will bring me such excitement. Just after this, I started the pursue of past KJ albums, and was deeply excited when the time was coming for the release of DEMOCRACY. Enjoyed reading this post, and agree with Nadine in various points, KJ have been not only a band, they are a critic voice, eye openers. I read once that Jaz said that his public doesn´t have nothing to do with brit pop fans, that KJ public were intelligent. I found that my expectations on music, on the industrial movement, on the ideas of been able to behave as an individual and having reasons to act and have a singular meanning to my whole existence, had a support or even inspiration in the legacy of art creators like KJ. Like Nadine, I found there is something in this music that is almost spiritual for me, without the almost. The new tracks sound great, I haven´t yet the chance to see them live, but a new album open again a lot of chances for me. It would be very interesting a gig in London or Berlin, at least for me, even knowing that they will certainly play in Madrid and/or Barcelona. For me, there are maybe two albums weaker than the others, but I will not mention any of them, as they have great songs on every record. Of course I have favorites like EXTREMITIES…, and PANDEMONIUM, DEMOCRACY, KILLING JOKE. As far as now, the new tracks sound great for me. Really… I can´t wait for the gigs. Tom: if your friend rejects the invitation for October, I can tell you won´t loose that ticket.

  10. Some great points raised here, and as another old timer (first joke gig at Manchester Polytechnic Cavendish House on the Whats THIS for tour of 81), Ive stuck with em through thick and thin, and will always class them as the band that will live with me for the rest of my life.
    What’s THIS for just blew me away completely. The intensity of that album, Fall of Because being a long time favourite. Its funny but when I play the first album nowadays, its the not so obvious tracks which I’ve grown in to a helluva lot since the Joke did the 2 night run at the Forum and Empress Ballroom. SO36 and Tomorrow’s World. I do think that Geordie’s guitar sound is what makes them so unique from anything else around, check out some of his work on the Damage Manual project (the dvd especially). The collection is still going strong, and the Killing Joke scrap book is getting ever bigger. Id love to get hold of the tapes which Peter Hook recorded with Jaz and Geordie in the early 90’s (asked Hooky on his recent book signing launch but the 2 or 3 tracks they did together still exist but he cant find em!). Look forward to reading other fans point of view, and if anyone else is still owed £35 for ordering Gems of Power, let me know, – as Killing Joke owes big time for this!
    all the best………

  11. totally agree! I have loved killing joke for 30 years through thick and thin and no comes close as a live band for the sheer power and intensity. my favourite album of theirs is brighter than a 1000 suns just because it is so unlike their other albums.adorations and chessboards are my two all time favourite kj tracks.going to see them in glasgow in october and i am sure they will deliver as always! great blog by the way!

  12. Tom:
    Your link to the ‘Exit’ video that you mentioned above showing Big Paul playing drums without cymbals is sort of a red herring, in that they are all miming their parts on an ill-equipped TV studio set. Those aren’t even their instruments. Jaz is just mouthing the lyrics, Geordie is practically air-strumming a non-descript guitar, Youth is trying to hide behind Geordie so it’s not so obvious he’s faking it, and Big Paul looks like an adult seated at a children’s drum kit. It’s so out-of-type for them. I’m sure they probably had no choice if they wanted the TV airtime though.

    Anyway, regarding everyone’s comments about the tribal beat being less than powerful, I was wondering if age may be a factor in creating the sound of some of these new songs. I know we all hate to admit it, but we (and they) are all getting older. If they were to have created the more hard-core-beat sounds of their youth on their new tracks, they all may be unable to perform them with such gusto in a live performance.

    One of the reasons I respect KJ so much is that they don’t over-produce their songs to the point where they are unable to perform them accurately in a live setting. They keep it REAL. They don’t play Hollywood games. I love that about them. It makes them more like bards than superstars, and that is exactly as I would want them. I can’t imagine how much a full set of songs performed one after the other would tax a drummer in his 50s, no matter how good of shape he is in. Respecting your limitations is a sign of wisdom and maturity. Being realistic is a hard-earned knowledge and I can believe that it may have been something they may have considered.
    -Nadine

  13. Oh, I also just wanted to mention that some of my favorite KJ songs are:

    – ‘Universe B’ (gawd this is mesmerizing; I could listen to it all day!)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPso14KrKns

    – ‘Kings and Queens’
    – ‘Tabazan’
    – ‘Pssyche’
    – ‘The Wait’
    – ‘Fall of Because’
    – ‘Requiem’
    – ‘Millenium’

    … Oh jeez…I could go on and on! Sorry for the outburst!

    -Nadine

  14. @Nadine, I’d go along with the “age” angle except for the fact that Jaz seems to be developing an ease with deep growling that would explode younger men’s vocal boxes… And the whole Absolute Dissent album seems younger and simpler in sound to me. In Excelsis doesn’t even have three chords.

    I too love the live production approach but sometime wish they’d lock Geordie in the toilets and go mad with the technology… I’d someone who knew about effects n shit to sort of augment Jaz’s voice…. live.

    As for your favourite songs, yes Universe B is amazing, I REALLY like the way the words are delivered off-beat, stumbling sort of…

    I can’t go with Tazaban and Kings and Queens because I’m allergic to their middle years but I’ve been trying a little aversion therapy and listening to those albums again and again. Life would be so much easier if I learned to like ‘Brighter Than A Thousand Suns’… here’s hoping…

  15. Tom, I agree with you! The ‘middle’ years, everything from Brighter than a Thousand Suns (I really TRIED to like it, but…) onward, are not really (dare I say it) crap, but well…not great either, with a few exceptional songs, of course. I love Millennium, Pandemonium, Asteroid, Death & Resurrection Show, Hosannas, Universe B, Invocation, etc. and a few others, but nothing much strikes a chord with me like the older stuff does. It seems to me that when Big Paul left, the balancing factor to Jaz was gone and things tilted too far into space. They either veered too far to the lollypop right, or too far to the Motorhead left. (I DO like Motorhead though). Like you said, their Tribal stuff is what nails it for me and sets Killing Joke in a class by themselves.

    This new album is excellent though, and growing on me more and more. I do agree that Geordie’s riffs are getting a tad blander and unimaginative, and that is a bit of a disappointment, as he really is better than that. Seems like the bass has taken more center-stage, and that is kudos for Youth I think. Big Paul really shines in some of these songs, especially Fresh Fever, Endgame and In Excelsis. It’s great to have him back in the fold, and if they can stay together, they could still have some really productive years ahead of them. This proves to me that the ‘original formula’ is still the best.

  16. Been a fan since the beginning, first time seeing them was in 1980 at The Whisky-A-Go-Go in LA (with Youth), saw them a couple more times with Raven in ’81 and ’82 at the same venue. Went to the reunion tour in 2008 and was blown away, it was like they’d never left, one of the greatest gigs I’ve ever witnessed!

    Anyway, just stopping by this blog because the new album is ‘out there’, if you know what I mean 😉 Title track “Absolute Dissent” is a stormer! Even a nod to “Psssyche” in there …

  17. youtube has given me the opportunity to explore Killing Joke’s entire career in detail. There is no disputing KJ have produced some fucking classic tunes over the years.

    I was grief stricken when I learnt of Raven’s death. I was googling KJ while waiting for a taxi to take me to the airport when I read about it. I then flew from Melbourne Australia to Bangkok kind of devastated. I can only imagine what it must have been like for the rest of the band to have to live through.

    My favorite Killing Joke songs of all time are PROZAC PEOPLE- BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS- THE HOUSE THAT PAIN BUILT- EXORCISM- SUN GO DOWN- MONEY IS NOT OUR GOD & INSIDE THE TERMITE MOUND.

    You often hear people say that everyone should see the Rolling Stones live before they die. I think everyone should see Killing Joke live before it’s too late. I had the privilege of seeing KJ live in Melbourne in 2004. Crystal clear sound. Incredible.

    Comments about KJ’s “bad years” do not detract from the fact that even today, KJ are an awesome & inspiring band & may they all live forever.

  18. @Sean – City Manchester England: (post from august 2010)

    I ordered the Gems of Power Box Set too. 35 GBP payed via paypal mluxon. Big Time!
    Unfortunately I can’t contact you via Email.

    I loved the Joke since 1980, when I bought the record. I saw them the first time at a gig in Munich, when everybody spat and they left stage after 30 minutes, and they continued acting along with playback and everybody threw bottles. I was blown away.
    But when they fooled me with the GOP I stopped buying their records. Nuff said.

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