What a miracle the KLF were: an elaborate practical joke at the expense of the music industry, seemingly both wholly cynical and completely sincere, who for a short period at the start of the 1990s bestrode the singles charts like a novelty colossus. A reissue of their greatest hits album wouldn’t seem cause for celebration — doesn’t the world have quite enough singles collections? — but the nature of the KLF’s disappearance (they burned a million quid and deleted their entire back catalogue) makes this unexpected reappearance a bit of an event.
These are hit singles that fizz with silliness in a uniquely British way. No American artist would have had the irreverence to ask Tammy Wynette, the queen of country, to sing ‘They’re justified and they’re ancient/ And they drive an ice cream van,’ over a house beat (‘Justified & Ancient’). Who else would have had the chutzpah to mix the Doctor Who theme, ‘Rock and Roll Part 2’ by Gary Glitter — who was not unmentionable at that point — ‘Blockbuster’ by Sweet, and terrace-thug chanting (‘Doctorin’ The Tardis’)? It’s hard not to laugh listening to Solid State Logik 1, though it’s entirely possible anyone coming to this music for the first time — without a memory of the context, and hearing only the songs alone — might wonder why ‘It’s Grim Up North’ consists of nothing but a list of northern towns read out over squelching techno, before giving way to an orchestral arrangement of ‘Jerusalem’. This is what pop sounded like before focus groups and algorithms: defiantly individual, proudly ridiculous and wholly glorious.