This week involved quite a lot of music. So much music that I don’t think I even came close to getting through it all. But that doesn’t change my thoughts or opinions, I’m just disappointed that I didn’t get to hear all of the songs I wanted to. How is it I had three different versions of Everyday (is Halloween) yet I didn’t hear it at all? Oh well.
My first exposure to Al Jourgenson came, unsurprisingly, through Ministry. My friend Chris and I were hanging out at his house, talking about comics and such. He and I were coming up with ideas for a comic book. It was very X-men influenced, a team of outcasts with fantastic powers in a world that hated them. We had a Shadowrun slant to it, in that these were not mutants, but “awakened humans.” It was not terribly original, but some of the characters were pretty cool. I was fleshing out the details of a pair of brothers who represented two sides of my personality, named Kindling and Imagine. Chris was coming up with ideas for a character like Colossus that he named Pummel. He had a Wolverine homage as well. He kept putting on different CDs as we were working, and one of them was Psalm 69. This was before the infamous mix tape that would get me into new music, so I had no bearing as to what this was or if it was cool. It was mixed in with Iron Maiden, Metallica and Megadeth, so I mentally just associated it with them. I wasn’t ready for metal, yet, so I really didn’t pursue it any further. It wasn’t until a couple of years later, after Missy introduced me to KMFDM and I went on my quest for more industrial music that I came back to Ministry. I picked up Psalm 69 and The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste around the same time, but I wasn’t 100% sold on it until Filth Pig. After that, I always picked up whatever they released, though their recent albums have been, well, less good. I’ll give the upcoming Amerikkkant a try, but if it even resembles From Beer to Eternity, I think I might be done.
Over time I would get exposed to more Al Jourgenson. I heard 1000 Homo DJ’s orignially on the Nativity in Black tribute album, and again on the Black Box. I would learn about Pailhead, Acid Horse, PTP and the Revolting Cocks through the Black Box boxed set. I had trouble finding any albums for most of these acts, but there was a RevCo album at Media Play, so I picked up Linger Fickin’ Good and gave it a try. I liked the album a lot, especially the cover of Rod Stewart’s Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? that was far more lewd than the original. I remember first hearing Lard on the soundtrack to Natural Born Killers. At the time, I thought it sounded a lot like Ministry, but thought nothing of it. It was only years later that I found out that it was Al Jourgenson and prceeded to track down their entire discography. Since then, I’ve kept up a little better, getting all of the RevCo and Ministry albums around release, and even giving Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters a go when it came out. That one was regrettable. I don’t know what drunken party made them think that a psuedo-country album was a good idea, but it wasn’t. Give it a try yourself if you must, but I really don’t recommend it.
Of all of the various Al projects out there, Ministry is still my favorite. I come back to it time and time again, though as I get older I end up focusing more and more on their albums from the Nineties and early Aughts. I don’t mind the “hate on George W. Bush” trilogy of the mid Aughts (Houses of the Molé, Rio Grande Blood and The Last Sucker), but ten years later I just don’t have the desire to continue hating a presidency that’s over, and there really isn’t a lot more to those albums than hating on that presidency. The albums after just were not as good, but the albums before are still some of my favorites.
I tried to see Ministry live at Ozzfest 2000, but they ended up cancelling. Static-X did an excellent cover of Burning Inside, though. I did finally see Ministry when they came to Columbus touring in support of the Houses of the Molé album. Heather and I went with our friend Josh, and it was an amazing show. The crowd was really into it, and so was Al. He was so into it that at one point he fell off the stage, right in the middle of a song. He didn’t miss a beat though, and jumped right back up and continued the set. They had three encores, going through a lot of their classics and finishing with a live performance of the Black Sabbath song Supernaut, originally covered as part of the 1000 Homo DJ’s project. It was an awesome and loud show on a Saturday night. We headed home, ears ringing and happy. Early the next morning, Heather’s mom calls us frantically at 6AM. Heather, ears still ringing, answers the phone. Heather’s mom asks in a panicky voice if we went to a show last night. Feeling a little weirded out that she would know that we had been to a concert last night, Heather answers that yes, we had gone to a show last night. “Did you go to the show where people died?” was the follow-up from Heather’s mom. Heather, still not awake, still a little buzzed from the concert, is highly confused. She relates the story about Al falling off of the stage, but that to her knowledge no one died, and Al seemed okay enough to finish the concert. Little did we know, while we were at the Ministry show, Dimebag Darrell of Pantera also had a show in Columbus that night, and it was the infamous show where he had been shot to death on stage. We were able to figure this all out while we calmed Heather’s mom down. What are the odds we would be at a show that night. Glad I was much more of a Ministry fan than I was a Pantera fan.
Although I really love Ministry’s original songs, I have a special place in my heart for their cover songs. Their cover of Bob Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay is, in my opinion, better than the original. They’ve done quite a lot of cover songs in their time, from Ram Jam’s Black Betty to AC/DC’s Thunderstruck to Amy Whinehouse’s Rehab to Stormtroopers of Death’s United Forces. My favorite still has to the cover of What a Wonderful World. I listen to it every year on New Year’s Eve. It seems to me the best way to bring in the new year.
Ministry has been a part of my life for a long time, and they’ve always been there when I just needed some loud music to go crazy to. I’ve been unhappy with their recent offerings, but it doesn’t change the fact that there has been so much great music from them in my life over the years.
The Revolting Cocks, though still very similar to Ministry due to Al’s involvement, have their own flavor. Ministry is a lot of sound and fury, anger and noise. They are aggression, flailing to hit everything around them, like the perfect musical equivalent of a street brawl. RevCo is more like satire and debauchery. Musically, they aren’t too far apart, but RevCo has more of a groove to them than the pounding industrial of Ministry. It takes a lot less from the speed metal of Ministry and adds in more bass guitar and saxophone. As opposed to Ministry’s street brawl, RevCo is like a seedy brothel. It’s dirty, it’s not classy, and you feel a little grimy just for walking in the door. It’s still pretty fun, though. The earliest stuff is little like scuzzy dance music, with songs like the classic Beers, Steers + Queers. The constantly changing lineup definitely affects the flavor of the music. You can tell the difference right away when you put Big Sexyland up next to Linger Fickin’ Good and then Cocked and Loaded. The underlying feel is still the same though. This is not music to listen to in polite company. Songs like Hookerbot 3000, Dykes and Cousins are not meant to be listened to with people unprepared for the level of offensiveness that RevCo brings to the table. But I like it. It’s a little window into a darker world that I’ll never enter. It feels naughty, like sneaking a peek at a Hustler magazine in your parent’s bathroom.
And if you can listen to Viagra Culture and not think of our current president, then you’re not hearing it right. Even though they are more of the “fun” band as compared to Ministry’s “anger against the system” seriousness, there is still a solid level of social commentary underneath it. Not on all tracks, I’m not going to try and find deeper meaning in Pole Grinder.
There was a time in my life that I thought the best collaboration between Al and someone else was this track:
That’s Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers doing the vocals on that. It’s the perfect mix of Ministry’s speed and aggression and Gibby’s raw insanity. I have since come to realize that there was an even better collaboration. How could anyone ask for anything more than Al Jourgenson and Jello Biafra together. So much anger, so much social commentary, so much tearing down of the system, thrown together for four albums! I didn’t really discover Lard until after they had already run their course. I heard Forkboy years before, and remember thinking “this sounds a lot like Ministry,” but never diving in to figure out if this Lard band had anything to do with Ministry.
When I finally figured it out, I dove in head first to the four albums they had. Ministry leans towards anarchy and political commentary. RevCo exposes the dark underside of society, then mocks it. Lard focused more on the hypocrisy of society and the “war on drugs.” Who better for a takedown of the system than Jello, and who better to back him up than Al. It’s like mashing all the best qualities of both Ministry and the Dead Kennedys together in a blender and then putting the results on CD. Plus they have an entire album called 70’s Rock Must Die. The title track is a lot of fun, cowbell and all.
Al Jourgenson, through his many forms and projects, has brought a large amount of music into my life, and the vast majority of it is music that I love. Lyrically, it reflects some of my own opinions on the world. Musically, it hits certain “sweet spots” in what I’m looking for in my music. Though I would argue he’s lost a step or two in recent years, that doesn’t change how much a part of my life the various incarnations have been. I hope for more from everybody involved, as long as it’s not more Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters.