Not the best compilation that could be assembled -- anything missing "The Wait," for one thing, can't be seen as truly definitive -- Laugh? is still a reasonable overview of the first decade of Killing Joke and its checkered but still important history. Very wisely, the emphasis is given to the band's artistic rather than commercial highlights -- only one song from Brighter Than a Thousand Suns turns up, namely the quixotic choice of an alternate mix of "Wintergardens," while nothing from Outside the Gate appears at all. Instead, the vast majority of the disc consists of selections from the first three albums plus a variety of rarities, the better to tempt the hardcore fan with most everything already. The choice of the overtly dub-influenced "Turn to Red" from the debut single was an inspired one, throwing a light on that part of Killing Joke's origins and how the group transformed it into already fiendishly nervous, intense rock. Other relative obscurities include the strong live take of "Pssyche" from Ha! and "Sun Goes Down" from Birds of a Feather. This latter track features some of Ferguson's best drumming -- one can practically feel his sticks hit the drumheads full-on -- while Coleman's singing and Geordie's guitar create one of the most mournful, melancholy numbers in the band's repertoire. The remainder of the tracks are unchanged album selections, most understandable ones, including "Requiem" and "Wardance" from the self-titled album, "Follow the Leaders" and "Unspeakable" from What's THIS For..., and "Empire Song" and "Chop-Chop" from Revelations. Adding the likes of "Eighties" and "Love Like Blood" acknowledges the group's later smoothness in the '80s without serving up embarrassing reminders of same, a wise move. The bitterly funny cover art -- the notorious Catholic cardinal saluting the Nazis' image, altered to include financial symbols -- is a crowning touch.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett