‘Laibach Revisited’ is an elaborate addition to the first Laibach record from 1985, and consists of 3 CDs, two booklets and a pin in a box, all beautifully designed in a memorable Laibach style. In the early years of the group, Laibach was an absolute sensation in Slovenia, then still a republic of Yugoslavia. The name referred to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, but in German.
‘To call a group Laibach Art in a nation that arose exclusively out of struggle - ultimately war - against German political and cultural expansionism (not just the Nazis) is, to say the least, scandalous. No greater Dadaist twist could be possible. The name of the group is it's most successful poetic idea,’ said Slovenian writer and philosopher Taras Kermauner, as the name was reminiscent of the Austrian occupation and - even worse - the Nazi occupation of Slovenia during World War II, and all it’s horrors.
Laibach’s first performance - along with an exhibition, a film screening, and three other bands - in their hometown of Trbolvje was banned as soon as the group posted gloomy posters in the city. The application for the concert was not formulated correctly, the authorities argued. The group would later claim that the performance was a test of the Slovenes’ positive awareness - as there had been a few government tests before - and that the performance was intended to be banned.
After their military service, Laibach returned to the front, but their first performance in Ljubljana in 1982 immediately provoked reaction. ‘Is it possible that someone permitted, here in Ljubljana, the first hero city of Yugoslavia, a youth group to take a name that forcefully unearths bitter memories of… Laibach,’ said a protest letter. A letter that the group then conveniently played out. Because negative publicity is also publicity, isn't it?
More publicity followed. Laibach went even further at a performance in Zagreb. They managed to mix propaganda films with speeches by Tito - the former president of Yugoslavia, who died a month before the band was formed - with porn images. The organizers promptly stopped the performance and distanced themselves from the band without hesitations.
Some say that a trap was set for Laibach afterwards. But even if it was a trap, the band fell into it consciously and with open eyes. Laibach was invited to an interview on TV Tednik, where they simply continued their totalitarian image and absurd statements. The interviewer concluded with a call: ‘maybe someone will finally act and stop these dangers, these terrible ideas and statements here in Ljubljana.’
Thus, the city of Ljubljana brought up an old decree stating that it was forbidden to use the name of the city - even in its German variant - without permission. The name Laibach was banned from now on. However, the group managed to perform in 1984 without mentioning its name. On the cover of the group's debut, also, we can only see the black cross - within which a tormented individual was wallowing - the symbol of the group, without the mention of the name.
It is this record that we commemorate with this edition. Most of the material was recorded in 1983. Some songs had already been released abroad. Even though the name was banned in Yugoslavia, the group could safely tour Europe under its own name. Given the difficulties, the vinyl debut in Yugoslavia was released only in 1985.
The new box contains this record, but ... actually the content corresponds more to ‘Rekapitulacija 1980-84’, which was released at about the same time in Germany on Walter Ulbricht Schallfolien as a double LP and thus contained much more material than the original record, with songs that were recorded in 1984 and 1985. So you get the maximum content. (And even if you search and think you're missing some song or bonus, those are included in the digital downloads included with this release.)
However, Laibach confused everyone. Punk could be criticized as a foreign influence, but what should critics think of Laibach? Dissidents could be branded as dangerous to the state, but what to do with a group that proclaimed they wanted to strengthen the state? And were especially secretive about their true ideas? ‘Laibach does not work as an answer, but as a question,’ said Žižek. And those questions kept piling up, while Laibach's true nature remained a mystery.
The last text from the book is by Milan Kučan. He is the man who led Slovenia to independence in 1991, when reform of Yugoslavia seemed impossible, and was president of the new republic from 1992 to 2002. It is a speech given by Kučan at the opening of an exhibition by Laibach in Trbovlje in 2010, exactly 30 years after the group's very first prohibited exhibition in the same place. He also emphasizes that Laibach provoked negative reactions because the work of the group was so difficult to understand. That he gave the speech shows that, today, Laibach is recognized in the highest circles in Slovenia.
So much for the content. The box and booklets are beautifully designed, with numerous works of art displayed in a unified style. The box shows once again that Laibach is one of the most intellectually challenging bands on the planet, and that the group's musical oeuvre may be difficult to fathom, but is definitely worth it.
Order the Laibach box here