Addressing the ever-shrinking credibility of rock journalism since 2007. With a sasquatch.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Under Review: Ministry

Al Jourgensen
Al Jourgensen, captured in the midst of a quick brood-break.

For many, Al Jourgensen and his seminal band Ministry, represented the best of what industrial music could be. Ministry was raw with Jesus Built My Hotrod, referential in using over-the-top Ed Wood dialogue lifted from The Violent Years (1956) for So What?! and incendiary with clear-eyed tirades against the neo-fascist leanings of both Bush administrations in Rio Grand Blood and New World Order.

Ministry: A Mind is A Terrible Thing To TasteA Mind is A Terrible Thing To Taste, released in 1989, was probably the most unlikely album ever to be certified a "Gold" album. The tracks were ugly, pulsing, guitar-driven echoes from a subterranean vault.

Tracks like Thieves featured cuts from Full Metal Jacket interspersed with The War At Home - an anti-war documentary set in Viet Nam era Wisconsin. The track questions the value of human life when it is arbitrarily ordered to kill or not to kill. This question is set against a backdrop of earth-shaking drums and sonically charged guitars.

Ministry: In Case You Didn't Feel Like Showing UpIn Case You Didn't Feel Like Showing Up, released in 1990, showcased the lurching, electrifying performances of Ministry's best music from the bands 10 years of experimentation.

The documentary and album featured Deity, Stigmata, So What?!, Thieves and Burning Inside from the Land of Rape and Honey (released in 1988) and the best cuts from A Mind is A Terrible Thing To Taste. The documentary also featured Jello Biafra with whom Jourgensen collaborated with in the infamous art-punk band Lard.

Ministry: Psalm 69Psalm 69 was released in 1992 and was Ministry's last great album. This album seemed to be about decayed structures, one piled onto the next, and contains the inspired collaboration with Gibby Haynes (of Texas psycho-billy band the Butthole Surfers) in Jesus Built My Hotrod. This track made Ministry an MTV staple. The album also contained the grinding, nihilist TVII questioning the value of broadcasted "facts" in mass media. The title track, Psalm 69, targeted the blinding effects found in religiously compelled zealots and the near sexual ecstasy of witch burnings.

The "C U LaTouR" Tour, Ministry's final world tour in July of 2008.

Ministry, in their three decades of albums and tours, confronted the contemptible effects of fanatical religion, claustrophobic urban society and the modern jingoistic bent in media on the human spirit in a way that their contemporaries could not approach. Jourgensen re-purposed this propaganda and re-directed it back at it's creators. The efforts of his contemporaries: Front 242, Godflesh, and Skinny Puppy seemed monotonous and lacking in coherent subject matter in comparison.

On July 18th, 2008, after 27 years, Ministry officially called it quits. But, in 2009, just to confound people that keep track of things like release dates: they released a double CD and a DVD called Adios...Puta Madres with a bonus documentary called Fuchi Requiem shot in part in Jougrensen's adopted hometown of El Paso, Texas.


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