Forget discordianism. Forget chaos. Forget the burning of the debut album or the burning of the million pounds. Forget the chaos. Forget Situationism and the détournement. Forget the Illuminati. Forget Echo and the Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes. Forget albums and singles released and deleted. Forget all of the copyright back and forth. Forget Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty even. Forget it all. All you need is love. All you need is joy.
Back in the days when Drummond was a lowly music manager looking after the aforementioned Echo and Teardrop, he didn’t have much time for the album. It was all about the single. The 45. The 12” at a push. When he was busy booking simultaneous Echo gigs in Iceland and Teardrop gigs in Papua New Guinea, when he was haunted by the face of a mystical rabbit god in amongst the trees of cover art, it was all about the single. The transformative power of the single.
And so here they are – back again, to paraphrase the opening lines of their debut single (which doesn’t appear here because, rudimentary charms aside, it wasn’t very good and they knew it) – all of the KLF singles in one place – the KLF being the band that the JAMS, Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (always mis-spelled – it should be Mummu if you follow the book they took it from literally), became for a short exhilarating while at the- end of the 1980s and beginning of the 90s.
Solid State Logik kicks off with ‘Doctorin’ the Tardis’ (later described by the KLF as “the most nauseating record in the world”), a riotous melange of the Dr Who theme, Sweet’s ‘Blockbuster’, Gary Glitter’s ‘Rock and Roll Parts 1 & 2” and Harry Enfield’s Loadsamoney character. It wasn’t my favourite at the time and it aint my favourite now but I’ve certainly warmed to it a lot over the years. Let’s call it a prologue to the real business of the day which begins with the MC5 yelling, “Kick out the Jams motherfuckers,” at the beginning of ‘What Time is Love?” Joy.
I hear “What Time is Love?” and I am 19 but also the ripe old age I am and it gives both of those individuals a pure shot of joy. The sirens, the vocals, the urgency of it all. “Right in the path of what they call the Mu Mu.” And that point where everything cuts out only to thunderously reprise (a trick they employ again and again and again throughout this album without it ever growing old). ‘3AM Eternal’ opens with a barrage of machine guns and the declaration that “KLF is gonna rock you.” This is then followed by “All aboard, all aboard, whoa!” – ’Last Train to Transcentral’. It’s a stunning trio of singles. And they all sound as fresh right now as they did – gulp – thirty years ago. Worth the price fo admission for these three alone.
But there’s more, of course – we get the last single by the James before they became the KLF – ‘It’s Grim Up North’, which feels to my ears these days like a halfway house between Orbital and LCD Soundsystem, its anthemic embrace of ‘Jerusalem’ just about all the introduction you need to ‘America: What Time is Love?’, which is as baroque and ridiculous and over the top as you’d expect. You can’t ever forget the role that ‘Doctorin’ the Tardis’ has, especially in these later singles: they were having fun, they were laughing, they were telling you, loud and clear, that everything you hold dear is probably just bullshit. ‘Justified and Ancient’ with Tammy Wynette is a fitting full stop to all of this craziness. Apparently she didn’t know what the hell was going on. Who can blame her? “They’re justified and they’re ancient”, indeed.
Solid State Logik closes out with the version of ‘What Time is Love?’ they performed at the Brits with Extreme Noise Terror, spewing meat out into the audience. It’s all daft, you know that, and yet the KLF have teeth too. They are refusing to play by the game. They may not know all of the rules of what it is they are seeking to do, they may not understand everything (the burning of a million pounds) they did, but it doesn’t matter because when you strip everything else away you have this barbaric yawp of unfettered [insert the noise that Extreme Noise Terror call a vocal here]. Which roughly translates, as we say, into joy of a rather magnificent kind.
Words by Pete Wild.
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