The Machinists of Joy
You might need to hear it to understand what I’m talking about it, but the best descriptor I can come up with for The Machinists of Joy – the first full length album from Die Krupps in over a decade and a half – is that it sounds exactly like a Die Krupps record. The obvious question that arises from that statement is which Die Krupps are we talking about here? The classic body music act? The crossover industrial rock machine? The arty early 80’s synth combo? The answer is, well, kind of all of those, and maybe something else; if nothing else the 16 track LP manages to throw light on the specific mode of songwriting and performance that Jürgen Engler and company have held onto through their various incarnations and hiatuses.
I suppose if I wanted to pin Machinists of Joy to a specific place in the band’s history, it’s closest to II – The Final Option, the record that yielded the band’s most recognizable hits “Fatherland” and “To the Hilt”. Listen to the rounded bassline and guitar accents of “Robo Sapien” and the rapidly cycling Teutonic groove of “Schmutzfabrik” and you should hear all the hallmarks of the band’s seminal early 90’s material on full display. While some moments skew earlier (the fairly straight electropop of “Eiskalter Engel”) or a bit later (the speedy “Panik” leans towards full-on industrial metal), it’s the marriage of EBM and factory-forged bombast that rules the roost here. If you’re gonna reference one of your most iconic songs in your album title you’re gonna want to be able to back it up by sounding like people expect you to, and I feel like The Machinists of Joy sticks the landing.
Of course describing a record as sounding pretty much how you’d expect might be construed as faint praise, even in the face of a 16 year hiatus. Leaving aside the fact that very few acts seem capable of invoking their own most obvious sonic identifiers from a few decades on convincingly, I think there’s a case to be made that you can hear the thread that binds the band’s catalogue together in these songs. Separating “Ein Blick Zurück Im Zorn” from its specific application of guitar and synthwork, you can still hear the band’s sound in how they use simple two note figures to accent the verse and tie it to the refrain, or the quirky way the lead on “Part of the Machine” follows and then diverges from the bassline; it’s pure Die Krupps any way you slice it. Every song has elements that even a casual fan should be able to identify as being from the DK playbook, an indicator of exactly how completely the band have woven their identity into their material from the beginning.
By and large I think The Machinists of Joy is successful in its aims. If you’re not a fan of the act I don’t know that there’s anything here for you, although I highly doubt Die Krupps went into this expecting to convert new legions of fans to their banner, the occasional wub as on the chorus to “Risikofaktor” notwithstanding. Still, for a band who often get overlooked in discussions of the classic body music acts (perhaps due to their extra-genre dalliances), it’s a record that fairly speaks to their legacy and capability within the style, as well as the continued viability of their take on it. If you wanted a new Die Krupps record you’re being rewarded with a pretty good one, more impressively you may find yourself having a craving you weren’t even aware of satisfied. Not bad.