Reviewed by – Matt Rowe
Killing Joke was formed in the late ‘70s. As they progressed through the years, they moved in and out of styles, adding and subtracting fans along the way. An album may be deemed too commercial or one too heady for some listeners. But, no matter how the band tried to settle, their constant tinkering left fans with favorites, and who were sure to dislike another album for one reason or another.
Killing Joke had several incarnations of the band but always with a core of Geordie Walker and Jaz Coleman. By the release of their fourth album, Fire Dances in 1983, the band had already amassed an interesting history with fans and their own philosophies, much of which is heard in their music.
Fire Dances brought in the lineup that featured now deceased bassist, Paul Raven. It is this lineup that comprises three of the four albums of this review (Fire Dances, Night Time, Brighter Than a Thousand Suns, Outside the Gate). But no matter your personal perspectives on the band, Killing Joke left behind a compelling, if not arguable body of work that has stood the test of time pretty well.
These reissued titles have been expanded with various collections of material that include John Peel sessions, early versions, alternate versions, remixes, and non-album single sides. They follow the previously expanded and remastered reissues of the first three albums of Killing Joke’s catalogue, and Ha!, their live album from 1982. In addition, these albums, like the previous batch, have been remastered to provide a satisfying sound.
The bonus tracks for Fire Dances include two non-album single tracks songs (“Me or You,”a 1983 A-side single, and its flip-side, “Willful Days”), as well as a version of “Dominator” – a B-side, and an original Alternate version of “The Gathering.” There are 4 John Peel session tracks from 1983 that are previously unreleased – excellent and essential – live renditions of songs off the album (except for “Wilful Days”) (“Dominator,” “Frenzy,” “Wilful Days,” “Harlequin”).
Bonus tracks included for Night Time include nine, one more than the original track-listing. There is a stronger mix of “Eighties” called the Kid Jensen Session in 1984, as well as three others from the same (“New Culture,” “Blue Feather,” “All Play Rebel”), all previously unreleased. The new disc continues with a non-album cut that was released prior to the album as a preceding A-side single, “A New Day.” The “Kings and Queens” A-side was backed with “The Madding Crowd,” an extra track which is included here as a bonus cut. There are several more interesting track mixes added that include “Blue Feather” (Joke Mix); “Love Like Blood” (Gestalt Mix) – released on the 12” Love Like Blood issue; and “Kings and Queens” (Geordie’s Dub Mix).
The bonus inclusions on the superior (my estimation) Brighter Than a Thousand Suns are only three tracks. However, the large-scale changes found here on what is referred to as a Restored Version of the album, are original mixes by Chris Kimsey, not those found on the original release of the album as mixed by Julian Mendelsohn. The Kimsey tracks represent eight tracks, while three Mendelsohn mixes remain (“Twilight of the Mortal,” “A Southern Sky,” “Rubicon”). And there are differences that you’ll note right away. I took to the Kimsey tracks immediately, especially on “Adorations.” The bonus tracks are the B-side single cut of “Ecstasy,” and two remixes that include “Adorations” (Supernatural Mix – Adorations 12”, and “Sanity” (Insane Mix – Sanity 12” (Canada)). In reality, you could view this entire album as a bonus set of previously unreleased / extras songs. This is my choice for an absolute pickup of the four releases.
Finally, Outside the Gate, a divisive release for the band, but one that I was quite satisfied with, yields seven bonus cuts, five of which are previously unreleased. Included is an extended cut of “America” found on the America 12”, and a B-side track (“Jihad”). Of the previously unreleased stuff, there is “May Day,” an early version of “My Love of This Land,” as well as an early version of “Obsession.” Both early versions are very satisfying. There is an interesting instrumental version of “Unto the Ends of the Earth,” and a dub version of “Stay One Jump Ahead.”
The booklets are revelatory works in and of themselves, with plenty of historical notes from Tony Raven. They are as much important to these reissues as the bonus tracks are. In addition, the discs are all painted with album-centric styles.
Killing Joke was an underrated band that never got their full due as a recording and touring unit. But their contributions, including these four reissues, reveal a band with as much relevance today as they’ve ever projected. Add these to your collection.
Dedicated to Paul Raven (1961-2007)
Release Date: February 05, 2008
Produced by: Killing Joke (1, 4) / John Porter (1, 3) / Chris Kimsey (2, 3) / Julian Mendelsohn (3) / Jaz Coleman & Geordie Walker (4)