An interesting review of Killing Joke’s 1982 classic single “Empire Song”.
Welcome to another edition of Progressive Music Classics, a salute to left-leaning music that champions the cause of working-class people around the world.
The great post-punk band Killing Joke released their sixth single, “Empire Song,” on March 20, 1982. It turned out to be an eerily prescient song when, less than two weeks later, Argentina invaded and occupied the Falkland Islands.
Thatcher’s Britain then sprung into action, gearing up for the subsequent Falklands War. “The Empire Strikes Back” was the cover story headline on the April 19, 1982 edition of Newsweek magazine.
The whole episode seemed to have been predicted by “Empire Song,” particularly in the infamous chorus:
“Back to square one, another empire backfire”
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Russia’s current actions in Crimea demonstrate that “The Great Game” of empires is as alive and well today as it was in the 19th century. The only difference is that, back in the old days, the great powers were a bit more honest in admitting that they simply wanted to steal the resources of the countries they exploited.
These days, imperialism is often masked and obscured by a lot of lofty talk about ideals. (For example, the Bush/Cheney NeoCons often talked of noble goals of bringing “democracy” to Iraq, rather than just admitting that they wanted the fucking oil for their billionaire cronies).
Like Robber Baron capitalism, imperialism never really died. It simply went through a fallow period. I’d suspect that the current episode in Crimea is merely only the beginning of what will be a new round of resource grabbing by the Great Powers.
Killing Joke is one of those bands that proved to be highly influential over the years, but never really got the credit they deserved. For example, Nirvana blatantly ripped off Killing Joke’s 1984 “Eighties” single on their 1992 song, “Come as You Are.”
And vastly inferior “industrial” bands like Ministry and Nine Inch Nails have made a career out of stealing Killing Joke’s basic template and watering it down for popular consumption. (The latter is the main reason why the whole “industrial” genre quickly became stale and cliched).
Unlike the tiresome bands that followed in their wake, Killing Joke always had an element of menace and danger in their work. What’s more, they had a real message, tackling horrors like Monsanto, war, propaganda, corporatism, and other modern ills in their lyrics.
Killing Joke’s approach hasn’t been a formula for commercial success, but it has led to three decades of fantastic music of integrity and honesty.
Posted by Marc McDonald