The KLF are Guy Debord. The KLF are The Sex Pistols. The KLF are a joke band who meant nothing. The KLF are monsters who could have paid to help a lot of sick kids instead of burning their profits. Many views are seen during this fantastic documentary. The only one that can easily be disputed is that they ‘meant nothing’. The KLF were terrorist art who demanded you had an opinion about them. Hate is better than indifference, of course, but at the same time if you hate The KLF, I wonder if you enjoy art/music at all. Then again, if you are a twenty something, perhaps you don’t even know they existed…
Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, The KLF, The Justified Ancients Of MuMu, The K Foundation, The Timelords, were a couple of ridiculous mother fuckers, obsessed with the Illuminatus trilogy and sure that they could do better than whatever trash was in the chart. They mixed the theme from Doctor Who with a Gary Glitter backline and had an instant number one smash. Then wrote a book about how you could do the same thing. Weirdly it was euro dance band Edelweiss who took the advice and Drummond and Cauty laughed until they saw it at number one all over. It seemed the art was directing the art and these two gents were merely the conduit.
Forgive me, I have not even mentioned this excellent documentary yet, its just that the story of KLF, excellently told here, seems like something you’d make up after eating too much cheese before bed. Remember, we did not live in an Internet world, so this whole thing happened at the band’s own pace and there is plenty of timeless footage and timeless music here. It might just be the gurning dance club faces that age it a little but close your eyes and What Time Is Love? and its ridiculous American version starring Glenn Hughes are still as glorious as the first time you heard them. If you heard them.
When I say to younger friends “Oh, check out this CD, you may not have heard it on streaming”, it is normally some obscure hair metal band who released one album. The KLF are not that band, they had massive singles all over the world, selling over half a million copies regularly but doing it all from Cauty’s squat, with all the records stacked up in cardboard boxes. I can’t tell you to go and give The White Room a spin, as it no longer exists. They played the Brit Awards, where they sent a messenger to get their Best Band award, shared with Simply Red, brought on Extreme Noise Terror for a prime time scream fest, dropped a dead sheep on the stage and it was all over. All material was deleted. It has only been very recently, after this film was completed in fact, that the pair decided to let certain material go onto Spotify, but there is no physical release, even though it would be a guaranteed number one all over the world. Artists. Astounding.
Brilliantly, this is not someone else’s view of the band either, it uses unheard interviews with Drummond and Cauty and just adds the necessary visuals, from the vaults and partnered with decent talking heads from Paul Oakenfold to NME’s James Brown. You know that this band must be something special when comic book icon Alan Moore appears and praises them to the heavens, being more animated than I have ever seen him. That’s praise.
The end of the musical career is only half of the story, of course. They sold money nailed to canvases, selling them for half of what they would be instantly worth if you deconstructed them. They gave the Turner Prize winner twice what the prize was and chained it to the gates of the Tate, promising that they would burn the money if she did not arrive and pick it up. Oh, money burning, here we go…
After becoming one of the biggest bands in the world, after coming from the world of situationist theory and suddenly sitting on seven figures, they did not know how to handle it. Or did they? Again, the next act in the play of The KLF, brings more questions than answers, but the burning of one million pounds from the band’s account was a glorious statement, made into a film, which tellingly was actually really boring. “Once you’ve seen one fifty pound note burned, you’ve seen them all”. Again, this comment is worth its weight in gold, or in notes, quite literally. Nobody questions it when Adele buys a 45 million pound mansion or when Liam Gallagher snorts a million in powder, but when artists make a comment like this, people got angry. “Why didn’t you give it to hungry kids?” was the regular argument. You could spin this and say how can you spend 200 million pounds making a superhero movie when there are people living on the streets? Hollywood burns money every day, but not in such a literal and brazen fashion as this. If you look up The KLF online in 2022, this will often be the first thing you see. Not the music, not the art (although this in itself is art), the money burning. There are moments in the film where the pair seem genuinely unsure whether they did the right thing and if, now they are family men, their children could have used the money better, but that in itself is another question, more art.
I still find it astounding that I can click on Spotify and play The KLF any time I like. Just like Drummond thinking “This track could do with Tammy Wynette” and 24 hours later being in her house. That’s art. That’s magic. That’s The KLF. 5 star, killer.
Who Killed The KLF is available to buy/rent from Amazon, Google, YouTube right now.