Sympathy for the Devil

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Part of Laibach's two-pronged attack on rock & roll via two of its most omnipresent icons -- the Beatles' Let It Be being the other source of ire -- Sympathy for the Devil is indeed a collection of versions of the Rolling Stones song. The weirdly ecstatic shimmer and shake of the original gets demolished and reconstructed thoroughly, Laibach's by-now trademark approach of Wagner-ian stomp and bombast and growled vocals turning the tune into something else again. If the alternate versions were just remixes of a core take, Sympathy for the Devil wouldn't be half as interesting as it is, but Laibach demonstrates their abilities with a range of approaches throughout, always seeming like they're laughing with and at their potential audience at the same time. Some are more straight-up industrial/electronic body music takes for clubs -- spiked with the de rigueur samples expected for such things, including song subject John Kennedy and spoken bits from the Stones themselves -- while others have the hints of psychedelia from the original's era, including bits of sitar and the like. Sometimes the lyrics are delivered in harrowing, strained German, other times in guttural English, the "woo-woos" turn into wordless invocations of marching doom. Hilariously and presumably intentionally cheesed-out corp rock guitar crops up here, weirdly creeped-out female vocals take the lead there, and the end result all seems perfectly calculated to make classic rock fans die several times over of coronaries. There is one near-instrumental non-cover, the dramatic swirling-string and vocalless-choir electronic rhythm assault of "Anastasia," but that also takes a fair amount of inspiration as the title indicates. In the end, seven versions of the same song are more than a little overwhelming, but as an extended experiment Sympathy for the Devil stands up more or less on its own two feet -- and the cover art is some of the most grimly hilarious stuff Laibach ever used.

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