- Gareth Crook
Who Killed The KLF? (2021) - 8/10
There’s a lot of myth around The KLF. Not as much as there used to be, but Bill Drummond and Jimi Cauty are all about the myth. Which is probably why they’re not keen on this documentary. They tried to block it in fact, but director Chris Atkins won the battle and here we are. It does suffer from the band not being involved. Atkins relies heavily on archive footage with a few talking heads who really only give their thoughts on events rather than any actual insight. If you’re not familiar with The KLF this probably isn’t as issue, but if you remember their heyday, the money burning, the deleted catalogue and more recently the resurfacing to build a pyramid out of bricks made from human remains, then there’s not an awful lot new here. Which begs the question, why were the duo so intent on stopping it’s release? Well it’s largely down to a fair bit of previously unrealised audio, which were told will “tell the whole story”. While that’s not entirely true. It does attempt quite successfully to tell as much of it as possible. From the pre KLF years, Drummond’s disillusionment with pop music and Cauty’s burnt career at the hands of Stock Aitkin and Waterman. The KLF (just one of several monikers) was a catharsis. Two fingers to the music industry. A desire in the duo for antiestablishment chaos. At one point it’s suggested that they were pioneers of sampling, which is a bit of a stretch. Drummond, clearly a hip hop fan just nicked the idea. That’s fine though and what they did, certainly did knock the fresh faced teeny pop of the 80s nose out of place. Probably because they were a bit shit at it. Not really taking small samples and cleanly mixing stuff together. Nope just Nick an ABBA song and scratch and shout over it. There’s probably tons of these bonkers ideas around. The difference with Drummond (Cauty always felt like he was along for the ride and probably knew more about making songs than Bill), was that he’s a brilliant marketer. I’m sure he’d hate that description, preferring artist or renegade or god knows what, but he certainly had a way of making his crazy ideas a reality. As a doc it’s nicely constructed (although the audio mix is a bit out of whack in places) and there a lot to construct. Once they’d had a hit, Drummond’s ideas are bank rolled. Plus they had one other thing in their favour. Luck! The emergence of the acid house scene was a jackpot for The KLF. It’s here that the public catch up with them as their profile goes properly overground with massive hits, all over europe. Millions of records. All done largely independently, without major label control. Which explains how they made so much money and also signalled the end. They became too big. Even the spiralling madness at their career zenith is handled brilliantly though. Their Brits ‘performance’ in ‘92 is a masterpiece and what this film does well is map out the timeline. It might not help get inside their heads, but it does allow the viewer to string events together and get a sense of the mood and drive behind each step they took. Whether you like the music they created is irrelevant. The KLF were and are much bigger than any one of the things they did. Be it music, unreleased films, or for want of a better description ‘happenings’. There is a lot of time given to the burning of the million pounds, but I guess that’s understandable. You’re not going to get any definitive answers as to why though, but that desire for chaos, spectacle is probably a good guess. The audio recordings do lift the lid a little, admitting that they were winging it. No grand master plan. Just living in the moment. Personally I think there’s a beauty in that. Maybe Drummond and Cauty don’t like this, but I LOVE IT.