Marx and Lennon

My vote for most idiosyncratic rock band in the world goes to Laibach, the musical wing of Neue Slowenische Kunst, a Slovenian art collective dedicated to “conscious abandonment of personal taste, judgments, convictions; voluntary depersonalization, the willing adoption of ideology and unmasking and recapitulation of the regime ‘postmodern.’” In other words, as the rest of the world explores democracy, NSK has adapted “retrogarde” totalitarian hierarchy for an organization that uses the words, sounds, and images of Hitler and Stalin as folk art.

Is this satire? Is this a serious cult? Are they snobs or vulgarians? Who knows? All I can tell you is that Laibach’s two albums—Sympathy for the Devil and Let It Be (Mute)—cover songs by the Rolling Stones and Beatles with astoundingly Wagnerian pomposity. It is truly totalitarian rock and roll, surprisingly melodic and listenable, and it makes me laugh out loud.

I’ve wanted an explanation for these guys for years, and now I have one in the book Neue Slowenische Kunst (Amok Books, Los Angeles, 800-374-AMOK). Like their music, NSK’s words have power in their pomposity: “Laibach practices provocation on the revolted state of the alienated consciousness (which must necessarily find itself an enemy) and unites warriors and opponents into an expression of a static totalitarian scream.” I still can’t believe they’re serious, but their paintings do make me shiver. Their all-for-one membership rules also make me shiver. And I’m looking forward to their next album, Kapital (also Mute), scheduled for release next month.