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Michael Benson on Laibach

Laibach (Ivan Novak, Milan Fras, Dejan Knez, and Ervin Markošer), 2003. Photo: Igor Skafar.


LAIBACH USED TO BE A FORCE to reckon with. To begin with, the band—if you can call this ensemble of sophisticated politico-cultural provocateurs simply a “band”—were the only group from the socialist world ever to make it in the West, signing a long-term recording contract with London’s prestigious indie label Mute Records (home to Moby, Nick Cave, Depeche Mode), and they did it entirely on their own terms. “Art and ideology don’t exclude each other,” was one of their earliest slogans, but I prefer another: “All art is subject to political manipulation except that which speaks the language of the same manipulation.” Laibach was revered by Russian rock musicians during the mid-’80s glasnost period; the Slovenian band’s culture-jamming strategies weren’t necessarily well understood, but they were proof that success in the capitalist world was possible. Like many of the Russian

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