28 October 2005
Most overlooked albums #1
Laibach:: Nova Akropola (1986, Cherry Red)
Sometimes, a band can be their own worst enemy. No one is a better example of this than Laibach. Yes, they’re a joke now. Yes, they’ve made an international name for themselves doing soulless covers of equally soulless pop music. Yes, it’s been twenty years since they were really on their game. But let me say a few words in their defense (and I have been inclined to defend them since I saw them live in 1998 and they butchered a couple of their own classics):
- the origins of their fixation with cover songs came from a desire to point out the possibility of latent totalitarian messages that was both amusing and thought-provoking, so it wasn’t always so vapid.
- Their attempts to link their music with the (questionably) larger New Slovenian Art (NSK) movement represented a brave attempt to reattach music to its artistic roots that was both intriguing and brave.
- Nova Akropola is a masterpiece.
There are a lot of fans of the Cold Meat Industry label out there- in the past, I counted myself among them. Take note: The music that you love does not exist without Nova Akropola. Same thing for fans of Der Blutharsch, who borrow shamelessly from Laibach’s aesthetic. The idea of combining classical instrumentation, military rhythms and heavy industrial electronics comes from Laibach and nobody else. When you first started to hear of these bands, you heard them all referenced to Laibach, simply because there were no other reference points.
Before they were a gag band, Laibach were infamous for their image as much as their sound. They hailed from a little-known corner of eastern Europe and employed pseudo-totalitarian imagery before the new wave of European traditionalist wannabes made it cool. (Their use of highly ambiguous political graphics, in fact, predates similar tactics from bands like Non and Death in June, who are more direct antecedents to today’s disaffected “we’ll do anything to piss off our parents” crop.) The fact is, Laibach always kept a crucial distance from their audience and that distance made the band that much more intriguing. Those that mindlessly ape the striking imagery of Laibach in this period seem to miss the power in the music that stepped beyond image.
A dozen years ago, Nova Akropola never would have shown up on this list, because people still saw fit to mention Laibach as an influence. As the band slid, people stopped mentioning their name, because no one wants their audience to think that their influences include an over-the-hill troupe popularly regarded as a joke. This is what I mean about the band being their own worst enemy.
Unlike most of the other releases on this list, Nova Akropola remains pretty widely available. Seek it out and appreciate what this band was like in their splendour. Their imitators still have a long way in order to make something as stirring and beautiful as this album. Almost as long a way as Laibach themselves.