teh last sucker iz u 5

Posted by othiym23 Sat, 26 Apr 2008 01:33:00 GMT

After spending the week wrestling with my own bad conscience, trying to decide just how accountable to hold myself for the music I own by murderers, anti-Semites, neo-Nazis, and other sorts of people with whom I do not hold, it’s something of a blessing to listen to something I can wholeheartedly support: the most recent Ministry record is loud, it is pissed, and it is pissed for all the right reasons. We are tangled in the thresher of a very stupid war, we are governed by mendacious, authoritarian idiots who have committed very real crimes against whatever morality we collectively share, and our society is beset by corruption – corporate, environmental, moral – on all sides. Al Jourgenson belts out all these sentiments and more with the same cartoony hard-edged clarity that has always been Ministry’s stock in trade.

The Last Sucker is a very fine Ministry album on its own merits, being at least as good as Psalm 69, and having one or two songs that are far better than anything on that album. Somewhere along the line Ministry transformed from an arty industrial techno parody of thrash metal into the real thing, and on this album they can stand toe to toe with Strapping Young Lad – the band who, in my opinion, took the latent promise of Burning Inside and converted it into something powerful and real, in much the same way that the Pinocchio at the end of the tale is more real than the puppet at the beginning. It’s not real subtle, but isn’t that the point?

I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that Ministry is a product of Clan Bush. Ministry’s finest albums (StigmataThe Land of Rape and Honey and Burning InsideThe Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste, of course) were a product of Bush I, and during the Clinton years, Jourgenson – and Ministry – sunk into a torpor that has only lifted in the last couple years of Bush II’s seemingly endless reign. There have been tons of distractions in Jourgenson’s life (smack, booze, swingin’ dick contests with ex-bandmates and miscellaneous others), but I have this pet theory that he takes the Bushes personally, and that’s what reignited his fire. They’ve fucked up his country, they’ve fucked up the world, and – most importantly – they’ve fucked up the reputation of Texas, and that shit will not stand.

Looked at in that light, it makes sense that Jourgenson claims The Last Sucker will be the final Ministry album. This time next year, the Texans will have left the White House (at least until the Jenna / Barb ticket in 2024), and the United States will in all likelihood have an entirely different set of problems to confront. Jourgenson’s bête noir will have retired to the ranch, obdurate in his refusal to take any responsibility for the wholesale fuckup that was the 43rd Presidency. In my mind I see Jourgenson with a bottle of Jägermeister in one hand, watching the George W Bush Library burn to the ground as the tears stream down his face, having come as close as he dares to facing down his own Colonel Kurtz at last.

lost Youth

Posted by othiym23 Tue, 18 Mar 2008 04:50:43 GMT

Once upon a time there was Option magazine. It covered a broad – yet oddly narrowly defined – cross-section of music that was too weird for the mainstream, but maybe not all the way underground. Each issue would feature quarter-page ads for ReR and Cuneiform Records, and generally there was one or more ads for The Bevis Frond. It had features of varying quality (one article on Swans featured the memorable observation by Jarboe that working in the studio with Michael Gira was much like what working with Paganini was said to be like: “like standing in vats of boiling oil, lancing each other with razor blades”), but the real draw for the magazine were the 30-40 pages of concise reviews, typeset in 4 columns of agate type. It took a couple days to work through them all, but doing so always left me with a feeling like I had a pretty good idea what was going on. They covered cassette-only DiY industrial releases as much as they did more established stalwarts of new and experimental music (Fred Frith, Eugene Chadborne, Zeena Parkins, John Zorn – the Knitting Factory crowd).

Option crapped out 10 years ago. It had lost its purpose, crowded on one side by the alternative-izing of Spin and Rolling Stone in the wake of the grunge explosion-implosion, and on the other by the explosion of subgenres and new bands that characterized the 90s. It’s impossible to imagine a magazine with Option’s broad remit succeeding today. There’s way too much music to cover, and the print magazines that do survive (in Pitchfork’s shadow) tend to be more narrowly focused and relatively conservative. Even The Wire, the most self-consciously hip’n’edgy music magazine out there, is much more predictable than Option was in the early 90s.

Even so, I did inductively identify an Option sound after reading it for a couple years, a kind of post-college rock / intellectual psychedelia that lived somewhere in the interstices between Galaxie 500, Robyn Hitchcock, Half Japanese and the aforementioned twisted guitar genii Chadborne and Frith. It was like art-hippy weirdoes Henry Cow tamed for a larger audience, or REM with more unpredictability.

I provide you with all this prolog because Damien Youth fits the old Option template perfectly. Having never heard him before, listening to his The Man Who Invented God filled me with a rush of nostalgia for high school, when my friends and I would swap REM and Let’s Active and Big Star tapes. Youth was contemporary with those bands, even though he never had their success, and he was clearly mining the same vein of intellectual, introspective folky psychedelia. The Man Who Invented God has the insular quality I associate with late-80s home studio recordings, and Youth practically ought to be paying Michael Stipe royalties, but there’s a free-flowing ease to the songs that makes the rough edges and stylistic debts less important. There’s also some eyeliner and goth poetry going on, which you can interpret as charming or grating as you see fit.

This is yet another of the trove of old recordings I got from Mutant Sounds, and it’s worth the download time and Rapidshare hassle to check out if you like gothic psychedelia. Youth outlasted Option and is still going, almost 25 years after he started, and he’s got a bewildering array of other projects he’s participated in. I might have to check some of them out.

sweet old Uncle Mike 2

Posted by othiym23 Sat, 12 Jan 2008 00:43:30 GMT

There is something ineffably sweet about Michael Gira (the most important of the Swans) writing goofball songs for the children of his friends. He used to live in probably the deepest, blackest hole in music, and now he singing about doing the monster dance and making silly rhymes about little girls keeping their rooms clean. I will yield to noöne when it comes to love for the Swans, but I like the new Michael better.