Laibach

Volk

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A band that uses explicitly fascist symbolism (including Nazi uniforms) as part of its stage presentation is opening itself up to a reasonable question: "Are you Nazis?" And when they respond by saying "We're Nazis the same way Hitler was a painter," then they're opening themselves up to another reasonable question: "Do you mean that you're aspiring Nazis who are held back only by a lack of talent?" But that second question doesn't seem to come up as often as it should, and while Laibach have found it easy to generate publicity by irritating various European governments in and around their native Slovenia, the band's fans have been disappointingly willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Drape your fascist tendencies in a sufficiently thick layer of camp, it seems, and postmodern sophisticates will nod along knowingly. But none of this is to say that Laibach's music isn't compelling, and Volk is among its most fascinating projects. It consists entirely of adaptations of national anthems -- those of Germany, Italy, Spain, the U.S., Japan, and even the Vatican are all included, as well as one that the group has written for its own make-believe music-state NSK (Neue Slowenische Kunst). Unsurprisingly, Laibach's interpretations generally run the gamut from gently ironic to mordantly ironic, but there are some surprising moments of real beauty: after their Gary Clail-style industro-funk deconstruction of "God Save the Queen" and a musically interesting but politically banal interpretation of "The Star-Spangled Banner" (samples of televangelists, the repeated line "How blind can you get," etc.) are a strangely beautiful take on the Slovenian national anthem and an extremely lovely, surprisingly straight arrangement of that of Japan. The children's choir and theremin bring a nice tonal variety to the Russian anthem, and their arrangement of the Israeli anthem is rendered with a surprisingly straight face, given this band's history. This album is well worth hearing, though whether you want your money finding its way into the pockets of this band's uniforms is a question still worth asking.

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