KMFDM and Legitimate Musical Legacies

Last week I went to see KMFDM at the TLA.  I realize that anyone who doesn’t regularly frequent Digital Ferret is probably asking “Are they still around?”  Yes, they...

Last week I went to see KMFDM at the TLA.  I realize that anyone who doesn’t regularly frequent Digital Ferret is probably asking “Are they still around?”  Yes, they are.  “With En Esch?”  No, he hasn’t been in the band for a dozen years now.  Since then (more or less), the band has been comprised of founder Sascha K (as sole original member), wife Lucia Cifarelli, and PIG’s former band, who have recorded actually some of the best work of KMFDM’s legacy.

So how was the show?  Well, no one likes $7 PBR pounders or South Street or mega venues (at least no one reading this blog).  However, for someone whose average night consists of watching some interchangeable, six-piece Nu-folk band from Canada at Kung Fu Necktie, actually seeing a show, put on by people who “know how to rock,” and have some understanding of the word “performance” is a welcome change of pace.  That… and the fact that every time I see an Industrial band I’m transported back to my teen years, to days of torn fishnets and dog collars, a period of youth in which you didn’t need alcohol to justify going bat shit crazy on the dance floor as you worshipped gods of noise.

KMFDM are currently touring behind their seventeenth studio LP, WTF?! which dropped this past April and did dominate the setlist.  I don’t have the album, but it sticks to that perfect combination of ass-wiggling and head-banging that they’ve mastered, which maintains a level of dance club playfulness, without ever making you feel like the kind of person who takes Lady Gaga seriously.  However, even only getting to sing along with every fourth song, it’s hard to not be captivated by Kapt’n K and Lucia, who, in their maturity, seem to have become the Bonnie and Clyde of Industrial spectacles.  For the record, if I find a girl that looks as good at 40 in nothing but rubber and lace as Lucia Cifarelli, I might believe in a god.

Another thing that you have to love about KMFDM is that, for a band going on their third decade, they have very little concern for history, or “trotting out ‘the hits’” (see: Sonic Youth, likely the only musical couple cooler than Sascha and Cifarelli).  With few exceptions (I’m not complaining about hearing “Drug Against War”), they seem more concerned with turning their latest sounds into anthems than relying on their “standards.”

So what is my point?  My point is that just because a band has weathered 20+ years and nearly as many lineup changes, doesn’t mean that they don’t still legitimately rock (if that’s what they’re going for).  There’s certainly a stigma attached to any band that disregards the notion of “the classic lineup” in order to maintain “integrity.”  However, KMFDM aren’t the only band to transgress this clichéd critique.  Here are another seven groups that, despite having only one constant member, are still pretty fucking great.

7. Black Tape for a Blue Girl (Sam Rosenthal)

I’m pretty sure that the reason this lineup is able to change almost annually is that the average person has no fucking idea who Black Tape for a Blue Girl are and those of us who are “initiated” wouldn’t ever doubt the intentions of Sam Rosenthal.  Although this band is regularly used as a punch line, if you can’t find their beauty (in any formation) as being far greater than that of any sunrise, then I’m confident it’s your problem.  (If this blurb doesn’t make any sense to you, it’s a “Goth” thing.)


6. Swans (Michael Gira)

Of all of the acts on this list, none have to worry about the “integrity” of their lineup less than Swans, the troubled stepbrother of Sonic Youth, who never got their due because they managed to be a little too “unlistenable.”   The band, who melded No Wave with “rock music,” couldn’t maintain any type of solidity of lineup not because they were simply doing it to make money by playing hits of yesteryear (because there were none), but because no other individual could keep up with the insane genius of Gira and he doesn’t seem to find any sentiment on the planet more revolting than “nostalgia.”


5. The Distillers (Brody Dalle)

I once swore that I would never listen to a band that had a Mowhawked member.  I broke this promise for Brody Dalle… essentially punk rock’s prom queen.  Yes, her manner is a bit derivative and predictable, but it’s also the most adorably subversive thing to grace my record collection.


4. The Pretenders (Chrissie Hynde)

I realize that it’s not unlikely that the last time you heard this band was at the dentist’s office.  However, their songs about S&M and “Tattooed Love Boys” (decades before we were an acceptable cultural identity) are still pretty awesome… even if your aunt and uncle agree.


3. Smashing Pumpkins (Billy Corgan)

Somehow this psychedelic Goth flourished as one of the biggest pop stars of his generation… and there are about a billion reasons why music “aficionados” stopped listening to him years ago.  But his recent output shows commendably little concern for pleasing the cargo-shorted masses that turn out to gigs expecting to hear a state-fair-approved-set-of-familiarities.


2. The Cure (Robert Smith)

(Moz, forgive me.) Yes, I realize that The Cure are historically regarded as being quite impressive (and they are…), but does no one else find fault with the fact that Big Fat Bob and his raccoon eyes and Joker lips are the only constant members of the band… and the revolving lineups seem to be doing little more than upholding the integrity of love songs of a lispy, unlovable middle-schooler?  Yes, The Cure are music history’s greatest joke… but they are kind of a joke.


1. The Breeders (Kim Deal)

No one seems to remember that the Sisters Deal weren’t always the core of the Breeders.  But, long ago, second guitar duties were handled by some chick name Tanya Donelly, forming a holy alliance of Boston brilliance that neither the Red Sox nor the TV listings of late night talk shows could hold a candle to.   When I was 17 I kissed Kim Deal.  Does this have anything to do with this article?  No, but there are few forums in life in which I’m hesitant to mention it.


During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.