Laibach – 1 VIII 1944. Warszawa


[Reviewed by Peter Marks]

As anniversaries go, this is a rather momentous one. Come the first of August, it will be seventy years since the Polish Home Army rose up against their German occupiers in the city of Warsaw. Now while it isn’t the defining death knoll for the third reich that Stalingrad was, it was a major link in the chain for the master race to have rebel against them. The casualty reports are all up for review and there is plenty of footage to be found but just what was it like to be in the midst of so much chaotic activity. Laibach aim to answer this with their new single which I hope will curtail the chorus of voices who stereotype them as nationalist sympathizers, but who am I kidding. This is Laibach we’re talking about here, a collective who never answer anything directly, preferring that their audience decide for themselves.

The absurdity, determination, desperation and dehumanization which this event stood up against and fought with comes sharply into focus once you begin playing it. With stately piano interludes, bass lines Mark King would be proud to call his own and disarmingly simple rhythms our cast deliver their message quite plainly: in war there are no winners or losers, only victims. Casualties which are both counted up in neatly arranged columns and the myriad of those who cannot be accounted for no matter how many years pass. There is a lot of sorrow and loss being chronicled on this release but that is, tragically, unavoidable. Something else Laibach are gently underlining with their ode to Polish resistance is the city’s unparalleled defiance in the face of hitler’s legions.

They didn’t have a stylish tag-line as the British did, but they never did give up. The deportations, the ghettos and the systematic attempt to strip away their national identity could not destroy them. There was no vichy government, no blind allegiance to their occupiers. Through gritted teeth and with a will wrought from iron, the citizens and their leaders took up arms and after a prolonged, bloody series of encounters (63 days of continual, non-stop fighting) were betrayed by joseph stalin’s indifference to their plight and crushed. But they never did break. Better to die on your feet than live on your knees. I would imagine what few stars of David remained counted themselves proudly amongst the ranks arrayed against Berlin but that’s beside the point. Away from all the flag waving and stirring speeches which fired the veins, something profound took root:

It’s all too easy to take the path of blind vengeance and give no thought to tomorrow.

Their single opens with a song that translates as “Warsaw’s Children”, which is quite fitting. Most of them watched and waited anxiously but I wonder if there wasn’t one there who would take up the struggle against oppression on the docks in 1980. Curiously, the same year Laibach themselves came into being. Coincidence defines them, controversy surrounds them; they demonstrate that with even the barest ingredients they can make any subject or sound their own. Would anyone else have had a go at this? Or would it have been too ‘challenging’, too ‘risque’. Sadly, too many artists in the world care what their audience think about their work instead of believing in their own vision. As a result, magnificent compositions like these are lost and forgotten. Quite convenient in these times but Laibach won’t hear of it, this release is now out and part of their collection.

Here’s to it joining yours.

Laibach1 VIII 1944. Warszawa
Narodowe Centrum Kultury
CD Single 2014

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