What Do You Know, Deutschland?


Wax Trax Records, 1986


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Admission: Although I spent two years in college radio - the true birthplace of the alternative format - I never knew that much about KMFDM or their music. Back when I reviewed MDFMK, I mentioned that I thought having a "clean slate" helped me approach that album with no expectations - but that I wanted to learn more about Sascha Konietzko's first group.

So, what better place to start than KMFDM's first release, What Do You Know, Deutschland? from 1986. It's raw, it's angry... it shows a group that was most definitely plowing its own unique path to travel, so don't be surprised if the road isn't paved on this one.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Looking at this album 14 years after it was released, it's easy to sit and make comparisons. Konietzko's brainchild sounds like a rawer Nine Inch Nails or a less polished Front 242, still remaining catchy while daring to challenge the listener with a pastiche of sound bites attacking your nervous system.

Of course, in 1986, it wasn't possible to make these comparisons, and KMFDM was like no other band out there. No wonder they became one of the first superstars of industrial music. With songs on this release like "Kickin' Ass," "Sieg Sieg," "Itchy Bitchy" and "Positiv," Konietzko and crew (including En Esch, who would become one of the long-time members of the group) proceeded to tear everything up in their path, leaving ample room for everyone to dance/mosh/whatever.

Ah, but not everything is klieg lights and cool synthesizers on this disc. KMFDM show occasionally that when you make your own road, you're occasionally going to fall, and fall they do on tracks like "Lufthans," "What Do You Know?" (to a lesser extent) and "The Unrestrained Use Of Excessive Force" (surprisingly, the last being the most controlled song on the album). Granted, it wasn't like KMFDM was following a road map with their music, but these occasionally become a little unbearable.

Admittedly, it's not the smoothest trip, and What Do You Know, Deutschland? is a release that absolutely begs for more than one listen. Fortunately, most listeners will find themselves wondering just what they've been through once this disc ends, and they'll quickly give it another shot. Not surprisingly, it's on repeat listens that some of these tracks show they were worthy of the time investment.

What Do You Know, Deutschland? is a tentative first step for KMFDM, but it was a stronger first step than many other bands might have made had they been in the same situation. It may not compare to the sonic richness of later releases from KMFDM, but there is something to be said for hearing what it was like in the early days.

Rating: B-

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© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Wax Trax Records, and is used for informational purposes only.