Despite the song’s eerily prescient release nearly five years prior to COVID, Jaz Coleman, frontman for Killing Joke, is an unlikely omniscient and rather perhaps simply wise. The lyrics, more likely to be interpreted as an allegory to our world’s overlords and their ever-present control over our lives – Jaz is an oft believer in several popular conspiracy theories, an occultist, an apparent cigar aficionado (see pic above), and a self-professed autodidactic (notably, just because something is labeled as a conspiracy theory does not make it auto-magically untrue).
Jaz stated to Billboard, “I don’t believe in any political ideas at all really. I consider myself a political atheist.” And Billboard itself quips of the album Pylon from which this song heralds, “The band’s cynical optimism, previously trained on industrial agriculture, financial institutions, and world-ending asteroids, here finds a new enemy: the rapid rise of technology, and the gulf it has created between dirt and the people who walk it.“
Killing Joke began in Notting Hill, London, England in 1979 with Jaz (vocals, keyboards), Paul Ferguson (drums), Geordie Walker (guitar), and Youth (bass) releasing their first eponymous album in 1980. Per their biography on Spotify, playing shows throughout England at this time they gained notoriety as being controversial with concert artwork of a repulsive or inflammatory nature including one such print that appeared to feature the Pope blessing legions of Nazis thus causing the group to be banned from performing in Glasgow.
The band has seen several formations over the years. Just after releasing their third album 1982’s Revelations, Jaz decided that the Apocalypse was near and so ran away to Iceland with Geordie. While there, they worked with a number of Icelandic bands including Theyr, which later evolved into the Sugarcubes. Also interestingly, long-time fan Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters sat in on drums for their second eponymous release in 2003.
All that taken with a wet-dollop of practical-insanity, their impact on the music industry cannot be overstated. Bands listing them as influential include, but are not limited to, Metallica, Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Jane’s Addiction, My Bloody Valentine, and Soundgarden (Wikipedia). A cursory review of Killing Joke’s music over the years allows for additional juice in KMFDM, Ministry, and Marilyn Manson to name but a few more.
Self-described their sound is “tension music” and also “the sound of the earth vomiting“, fan Shaun Hamilton in the YouTube comments expounds further, “All the(se) years later, and they’re still as subtle as an air raid and serious as an aneurysm!” The song itself openly seethes with brash-apocalyptic-screeching guitars and migraine-inducing rapid-fire-heart-rattling drums all before the lyrical diatribe ensues with its anti-programming-programming. “I am the furnace. Where resentment glows. I am the bias. I am the virus. I am the virus!” That all to the backdrop of overarching-industry and an idiot smile-suited mannequin embracing his busty-statuesque idols-of-contempt.
The whole album Pylon is full of these strong-headed, sharp-witted, anthems to chew-bat-heads-to and swallow, so bleed internal with beastly pleasure friends.