Upon first viewing, it’s a little difficult to believe that this video for Laibach’s cover of the Opus song “Life is Life” actually played on MTV, and is not in reality some elaborate piece of sketch comedy by some unknown comedians of the ’80s. The band plays it so straight and there’s so much pomp and bombast, that we all feel the power but maybe we’re all glad when it’s over, too.
The Slovenian band Laibach is like a practical joke that’s been sustained for over a decade. At the same time they’ve perplexed, alienated, and amused the public by cultivating a fascist aesthetic and using Wagnerian themes in their music, all the while never admitting whether or not they’re serious. Even the name of the band refers to the name Hitler gave the capital of Yugoslavia during the occupation. When asked directly if they were in fact fascists, they responded, “we are facists as much as Hitler was a painter,” which is a rather vague and dubious answer that doesn’t clarify anything. Death+Taxes aptly notes that “their parody [is] so severe and their depth of commitment to it so deep they make the Talking Heads look about as biting as a velvet Elvis.”
D+T, with a some degree of irony I’m sure, calls Laibach’s video for the song “Life is Life” the greatest music video ever made. With its high production values (especially for the ’80s), beautiful landscapes and exteriors – the video is almost entirely exteriors – and generally ridiculous images, it might indeed be the best music video ever made.
What is perhaps even more over the top and unbelievable is footage from Laibach’s 2007 tour where they played material from their album Volk (2006). This album features them doing covers of various national anthems, including the United States.’ Pay attention closely – the same speech that is sampled in Brian Eno and David Bryne’s “America is Waiting” is used here.
There’s nothing better than a national anthem morphed into a piece of music that is twisted, unsophisticated, and crudely ironic in a way that’s endlessly provocative and entertaining.