Killing Joke – “Down by the River” live LP review

So, Killing Joke put out another live LP“Down by the River”.  Hmmmmmmmm.  They have put out a lot of live stuff recently – Live at the Forum (volumes one and two), XXV Gathering (25th anniversary gigs) and Duende (the rehearsals for the re-union tour), not forgetting the re-issued records: the Bootleg Archive (6 CD’s worth) and the “Original Unperverted Pantomime“.

Frankly, in terms of production, some of the live material has sounded below par, so to see another Killing Joke live LP does not fill me with the same joy as seeing the announcement for “HA!” in the summer of 1982.

“Down by the River” was recorded at the Royal Festival Hall on the first of April, 2011 (ha!), and by all accounts it was a pretty good gig.  The 20 track set includes 12 tracks from 1980-1985 (*):

Geordie has produced the LP (with Clive and Reza):

Geordie Walker KJ Guitarist and founder member had a vision to record the show and produce the results himself to give the fan base what he describes as ‘the definitive KJ Live album’. Geordie, long term collaborator ‘Clive Goddard’ and KJ Keys player Reza Udhin disappeared into the wilds of Henley Upon Thames and the wonderful Doghouse Studios and created this amazing piece of work – completely driven by Geordie himself.

And they are selling it via PledgeMusic.  PledgeMusic let’s bands connect with fans to pre-sell their LPs (which to allow them to fund the recording and production):

PledgeMusic helps artists and bands design a specifically tailored fundraising campaign to raise money for their next release. Pledge encourages the artists to participate with their fans in an exciting and unique way by creating an irresistible menu of exclusive content and experiences. The list can be anything from DJing at your house party, to attending a rehearsal, or even a movie and dinner with the band!

There is no risk to you as your money will only be taken once the artist’s target amount has been raised, and Team Pledge will keep you informed of the project’s status every step of the way.

And according to Killing Joke’s Facebook feed, PledgeMusic has gone really well.

So, I received an extra Christmas present on this Boxing Day.  An email from Pledge Music saying that “Down by the River” is completed and available for download, NOW, for pledgers.  Yep – I know the introduction to this blog is a bit downbeat, but this is Killing Joke, the most important post-punk band… period… so of course I am a pledger.

And, in true Christmas spirit, I bring festive greetings of much joy (or whatever) – Down by the River is really fucking good.

I never saw the original line-up play live.  My first Killing Joke gig (and my first ever “proper gig”) was Digbeth Civic Hall, July 1983, with Play Dead supporting.  When I heard the first of the live stuff with the original line-up in 2008 (Forum & Duende) everything became clear.  When you hear Big Paul’s drums – especially the work on the hats and the floor toms – and Youth’s bass – with that underlying funk edge – lock together, things are good.

But what makes this different is the production.  This has a thick, meaty, dirty edge to it.  The drums slap, the bass grinds and the guitar is relentless.  And Jaz is… Jaz.  Pandemonium.  The sound is taut, big, full, and really well balanced.  And it is mastered really loud, which, personally I like… for Killing Joke live.  Filthy.

Bizarrely, the one track that stands out for me is Love Like Blood.  I have never really felt comfortable with the more commercial sounding Killing Joke, and when played live the LLB never seems to stand up to the recorded version.  But this version is really good.  The guitar sound over the entire album is really raw and harking back to the Geordie guitar sound from the early 80s, and this version of LLB would not have sounded out of place on  their debut LP.  Praise indeed.  Other highlights – Unspeakable (inspired opening track – really sets the bleak, industrial soundscape), Fall of because, The Wait, Pssyche – all the old faithfuls I suppose, and Asteroid, which is becoming an old faithful (and it is interesting to hear Paul and Youth play a Killing Joke song that neither of them played on originally… and the result is funkier, tighter and cooler if you ask me).

So, is Down by the River the definitive KJ Live album?  You never know, it may just be.  Very highly recommended.  Love it.

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