How do you even assess the quality of a KMFDM album in 2024? The long-running industrial rock band have remained active for the entirety of their 40 year history (their brief dissolution in the late nineties notwithstanding), and have amassed an audience who are happy to have a new album from them every two or three years regardless of any questions of musical or critical relevance. Really, KMFDM have the freedom to do whatever they want creatively and it’s not going to impact their ability to tour or put out records so long as they stick to the same tongue in cheek, self-effacing attitude that they’ve been working since the late eighties.
With that in mind, new album Let Go is mostly notable for the contrast between the times when Sascha Konietzko and company are playing it safe and those times where they genuinely take a creative swing, successful or not. And admittedly, it’s mostly the former; if what you come to KMFDM for is some chunky guitar riffs, meat and potatoes programming and lyrics that vaguely hint at some broad but not especially substantial sloganeering, the record has you covered. “Push!”, “Erlkonig” and “Totem E. Eggs” (?) are boilerplate KMFDM through and through, uninspired but competent.
Still, there are just enough interesting moments to feel slightly frustrated that a band of their prominence doesn’t try a little harder. Single “Airhead” in which Lucia Cifarelli (a presence in the band now almost as synonymous with their identity as her husband Konietzko) delivers a personal reminiscence of her life tied to a “keep on keepin’ on” inspirational message isn’t a great song, but its overt alternative rock styling makes it stand out. It and “Touch” are moments where the band more closely resemble Garbage, or closer to home The Birthday Massacre, and that’s something different and therefore notable.
Even in some of the more standard types of track you get ideas which could be taken in genuinely interesting directions. The title track mostly plays as a rewrite of any number of cuts from the catalogue, but tosses in a bridge with synth horns and Chic-style guitar that has some genuine disco funk to it. “Next Move” is aimless from an arrangement standpoint, but the vocodered voices, little hints of big beat electro and twinned guitar and bassline are all fun musical elements in search of a better song to be a part of.
Then again, KMFDM’s ubiquity makes Let Go being what it is unsurprising; any band that has declared that they suck so often that it’s become a cheeky point of pride is inured from the slings and arrows of ex-fans, critics, and the like. If you’re someone who has stuck with them for this long, it’s hard to imagine you’ll have much to complain about, while those who jumped ship any time this millennium won’t find a compelling reason to reactivate their fandom. It’s KMFDM, doing it again. And again. And again.