Minimalist industrial (the best kind), in all its Wax Trax! Records glory (though, it did not need said label’s social nuances to successfully flourish). 1988’s three-track EP, Idiot is an adventurous (and repetitive) introduction into Paul Barker’s debut (Ministry / Blackouts) side project, Lead into Gold. Only releasing one LP (1990’s Age of Reason), Lead into Gold was a short-lived, heavily weighted shadow, worthy of your next vacation from the scowling reality that is 2017 “America.” I’d suggest you listen with caution, but such a warning would fall upon deaf and ignorant ears.
Play it Again Sam Records, now [PIAS] Recordings, the Belgian-based experimental / alt-rock label released Dog Star Man, a 12″ single from England’s Meat Beat Manifesto. It was the distribution by Wax Trax! Records that caught my eye (along with the industrial-friendly cover art), and although she’s a quick 4-track 12″, she does wet the electro-industrial-experimental whistle and leave the adventurous listener wanting much, much more. 1990 was a great year for industrial music… arguably the genre’s most prolific.
In all my Wax Trax! Records collecting days, I’ve never seen a gold version of the iconic logo. Not sure why it’s taken me so long to secure WAX005, A Popular History of Songs’ 1984 effort, Ladder Jack, but neatly affixed to the back cover of said EP is this glittering gem. I’m a sucker for logos, if you haven’t figured that out, and beside the Grand Royal Records logo, this one may take the cake.
In 1987, I was 8. Also in 1987, Revolting Cocks released their heart-stopping live album, the double-trouble LP, You Goddamned Son of a Bitch. This album was recorded some 170 miles south of the rural, tumbleweed-rolling town I rode my GT Vertigo BMX around. Now, some 29 years later, this video documentation holds court within our humble library . Historical brilliance needs preserving, and this release was done up right.
You know, I really wasn’t sure what to expect from a new Laibach album, having not heard anything by them since their 1988 masterpiece Let it Be (now 26 years old). I’d been a casual fan, to put it mildly (also the owner of their 1987 Wax Trax! Records release, Opus Dei), so when Spectre found its way into my eye while on a weekend getaway up in Ventura Country, I couldn’t help but snatch it up thinking, why the hell not? I’ll be honest and say I’d (wrongfully) thought of Laibach as a long, running joke, what with their over-the-top fascist military uniforms and “totalitarian-style aesthetics.” What I found, thus far, from the six or so tracks I’ve consumed, is a collective sticking to their guns, or marching to their own beat, or waving their own flag (I’m tapped out of military references), while still maintaining their classic, oppressive, industrial sound. Like with any Laibach track, the beauty is found within repeated listens, and Spectre is no exception. Certain hilarious lyrics stand out that cue certain track repeats, but not one time, thus far, have I regretted my purchase, if only for feeding my overflowing curiosity.
In 1987, industrial-metal pioneers, the illustrious Ministry, teamed up with straight-edge mogul, Ian MacKaye (of Minor Threat and Fugazi), for an ambitious, yet magnificently executed collection of hardcore punk-industrial hybrids. Calling themselves Pailhead, the short-lived supergroup released six tracks over three releases and a comp. Featured here is their first record, well, the 12″ version of it, titled I Will Refuse. It’s not surprising that the record received both a 12″ and 7″ release, catering towards both the industrial (12″) and punk crowds (7″) respectively. Swap out MacKaye for Jello Biafra, add a few years (1989), and you’ve got LARD, another, more long-lasting venture into the punk-industrial genre that these Pailhead fools almost single-handedly established. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damn close. Check ’em out.
Lead Into Gold, wait for it… on gold vinyl! Finally, an official vinyl release of Lead Into Gold’s (Paul Barker) Low and Slow 12″! Previously only existing as a test pressing (roughly only five copies), this gold vinyl release of the now 24 year old record is limited to 500 copies and is sold directly through the label, Wax Trax! Records. Sure, $16 is a bit much to pay for four tracks, but new Lead Into Gold certainly warrants excessive spending.
I was elated when I finally found my copy of Lead into Gold’s only full length, 1990’s Age of Reason. Like a child on Christmas unwrapping musical bliss, or something like that. I scored a sealed copy for super cheap online some, wow, 10+ years back. There is a bridge… there is water… and there has been a lot of that water… anyway, one needs to be in a very specific, sharp-minded and angry mood to fully enjoy this industrial masterwork. Today, I was that one. Enjoy with caution.
Laibach brings such a cynical smile to my face, I border on fits of maniacal laughter. Life is Life is a classic, and comical oppressionist Industrial hymn, and is the perfect relief for the Friday afternoon doldrums. To be completely honest, I’m not 100% sure that Laibach’s brand of persecution theme music is to be taken sincerely. By themselves, Laibach songs can raise the weary eyebrow of the unsuspecting ear, but when coupled with a blatant, over the top video (such as Life is Life, or the Beatles cover, Across the Universe), one can’t help but break out in a rash of uncontrollable snickers.
If you can get past the repetitious hammering and deep-throated persecution, Laibach is comedy gold, with a brainwashing beat. This, and all Laibach comes HIGHLY recommended by the PG.
When one witnesses this 1992 seal of quality from the 1992 KMFDM album, Money, one knows one is witnessing one’s best possible selection one can possibly make. One need not continue looking once one discovers ol’ Moonface logo guy, here. One looks, one sees, and one gets that deep down warm and industrial fuzzy feeling one tends to get, when one knows, and respects, that Wax Trax! Records sound.
There can be only one, and this is it.
Israeli dark wavers Minimal Compact blend a compelling combination of Middle Eastern influences, a Westernized, early 80’s love for the sax, looming, almost destructive industrial loops and effects, propulsive bass, appropriate hints of what sounds like an antique squeezebox, and a flavor I can’t quite place that conjures up images of David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch on this, Minimal Compact’s 1984 effort, Next One is Real. I’ve owned this EP for several years, it being a Wax Trax! Records release and all, but I’m now listening to it with what seems like virgin ears. I’m on my third, consecutive spin.
The snarling chants bellowing from the opener, Next One is Real, reminds me of a spry Douglas McCarthy from Nitzer Ebb and, although I’m an enormous fan of the Ebb, the progressive, rhythmic flow of Disc O’Dell’s remixed work on Next One is Real and Not Knowing eclipse even the greatest in Nitzer Ebb’s stunning catalogue. And just like that, Minimal Compact has swiftly become my newly acquired audio fixation.
Victorious, self-promoted back-patting often follows a discovery of unrelated mediums. My fandom of all things Wax Trax!, (X-Ministry member) Paul Barker, and kickass covers first drove me, at nauseating high speeds, to the Lead into Gold (aka Paul Parker) three-track EP, Chicks & Speed: Futurism. Thinking little-to-nothing of the embossed “chick with speed” cover upon its immediate acquisition, set up a cloud parting, heaven’s light-shining, all-aware, and never forgotten moment of connection and instant recognizable correlation some several (possibly three) years later.
I’d heard Georges Bizet’s legendary opera, Carmen, several times prior, although I couldn’t necessarily pinpoint when and where, but this ear-ingesting fact is unimportant. What’s profoundly relevant is the striking similarity, i.e. blatant ripping off (homage?) of the 1955 Columbia Records (CL 735) discharge by André Kostelanetz and His Orchestra to the 1990 Wax Trax! Records release. Nowhere during the opera’s IV acts does the swelling drama invoke even a hint of the Chicago based American industrial offered by Lead into Gold, and nowhere throughout the 19 minutes of Chick & Speed: Futurism is a hint of Carmen revealed.
The struggles to continue the lifelong search of the ever-illusive relation between these two albums marches on, and perhaps always will, but the journey’s soundtrack, as well as its alluring cover art, certainly is provocative.
When the first one hit, I found myself amongst a cloud of darkness, and a kitchen full of dirty dishes. When the second one hit, I (literally) ran to the office for my portable, and this 1985 release (Wax Trax! Records cat. no. WAX006), Lost Soul’s Club by the Blackouts. I’ve lived in Southern California for over 10 years and have never experienced a blackout, so, quick on my feet, I wasn’t about to miss an opportunity (however brief), to enjoy the Blackouts during an actual blackout. Lucky for me (less so for my SO), this one lasted three hours.
I’m still working on an actual, respect-given write-up about my portable turntable setup (battery operated Numark PT-01 and iBN24 iHome rechargeable speaker, gifted by my thoughtful, music-loving parents), but I will say this: the ability to listen to records literally anywhere and at literally any time is a luxury I’m rapidly becoming accustomed to.
The obnoxiously soothing b-side to the Olivia Newton John cover of (Let’s Get) Physical by the Revolting Cocks is a marathon listen. Clocking in at 10:08, this monster of a patience builder is little more than an irate, mechanical loop set off to offend everyone, up to and including the most devoted RevCo fans… at a seemingly endless coil of 10, nauseating, industrial minutes…
I’m in love with this song. It offers somewhat of a calming experience, not unlike the way Philip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach provides its monotonous, brilliant beauty. I’ve included the track for you (to struggle through) to enjoy, so you can get a sense of what Chicago’s industrial scene was like in 1989.
Not unlike drinking straight vinegar, or putting hot sauce on your morning toast, (Let’s Talk) Physical, and the Revolting Cocks as a whole, are certainly acquired tastes. This isn’t a song I’d spin as often as let’s say, The Kinks’ Animal Farm, but its function of knocking me out of any given dry, laborious day, at 10-minute intervals, is a rare and welcoming treat.
There is a distinct level of sophistication found throughout the three tracks on Revolting Cocks’ debut 12” No Devotion that is only hinted at on Ministry releases from the same label (Wax Trax! Records) in the same year (1985). There is something much more nefarious and menacing here than say, Everyday (Is Halloween), or even Over the Shoulder (both Ministry releases, and both released in 1985). The Nature of Love (again, Ministry… you can see where my head has been lately) comes close, but is lacking that fiendish push into classic industrial / EBM territory. Perhaps No Devotion, with its three tracks clocking in at 22 minutes, benefits largely due to the fact that RevCo, at this time, was a bit of a Wax Trax! Records supergroup. Consisting of Front 242 head, Richard 23 and Luc Van Acker (surprisingly, Alain Jourgensen is isolated as Producer and not an official Cock), this preliminary incarnation of the ever-evolving band would only release one other record as a three piece, their first full length, 1986’s Big Sexy Land. After that, Richard 23 left, and Ministry mainstays Bill Rieflin, Paul Barker and Chris Connelly became official Cocks. The band would change again in 1993, then yet again in 2006, but that’s a topic for another time.
Every once in a blue moon I’ll get trapped amongst the early Wax Trax! Records releases, which usually leaves me with a raging headache and the smell of whiskey on my breath, but every time I’m more than happy to welcome the comfort of anger and disgust that inevitably comes along with some of the pinnacle releases of the industrial movement.
It’s the first rather cold day here in LA (if that isn’t the oxymoron to end all oxymorons), and it feels amazing. So, what may seem as a bit of a stretch for some (I’ll ask those to remain silent), today’s choice for the daily platter-player is the appropriate Cold Life EP by early-Ministry. I specify early-Ministry because the contents of the first seven or so years of the bands output sounds NOTHING like the music we’ve all grown to love and admire.
Those expecting the obsessive rage and severe crunch of Ministry circa: 1988-1996 (and beyond for that matter) will be extremely shocked (and instantly irate) upon first listen, and will demand a throw down claiming this new wave, funk noise is not Ministry at all. Well, my fellow tender meatheads, you’d lose that battle. Like a spitting, swinging light in the damp and musty basement of industrial music history, signs of classic Ministry illuminate in stabby bursts throughout these four, groove-happy tracks. They may be suffocated by early 80s synth-pop, but believe me… they’re there.
A must for the diehard Ministry fan, or the casual fan of the progressive lineage of industrial music as a whole, Cold Life, upon further spins, is not near as bad as it first seems, and after the cloud of fury subsides, it’s actually an extremely enjoyable listen.
There was little to no doubt as to what post #242 would give prominence to. My only fear was that I wouldn’t be back from Wisconsin in time to snap the appropriate pictures to accompany this particularly numbered entry. For nearly a decade, I’ve been addicted to the self-proclaimed Godfathers of EBM or electronic body music (wikipedia calls them pioneers… I’m onboard with that)… Belgium’s Front 242.
As aggressive as they are danceable, and as rhythmically astounding as they are painfully lethargic, Front 242’s brand of industrial dance music is just the kind of narcissistic noise pollution that calms the unsettling nerves of my unbalanced equilibrium. It certainly doesn’t hurt that this rotating four-piece signed to Wax Trax! Records and, in the mid-80s, toured with Ministry (which resulted in the historic and monumental creation of the super group, Revolting Cocks).
Allmusic lists Front 242 as Pop/Rock. If Front 242 is Pop/Rock, then Willie Nelson should be categorized as Speed Metal. With heavy synths, combative vocals (when there are lyrics, which is rather rare considering their 32 year catalog), and the pleasure-secreting cloud of rhythmic percussion, Front 242 invokes the offensive aggression of punk, with the mind-numbing social-fukk-fest of Techno, for that perfect combination of salty-sweet ear food. It’s quite possibly the best form of music I’ve ever had the pleasure of shoving into my head.
Sometimes, you just dig what you dig, and you could care less as to the politics involved. Front 242 knocked me out some 10 years ago, and I’m still, without any moment of hesitation, completely comfortable enjoying this blissful, unconscious condition.
Trying to draw a roadmap of an individual’s personal music highway is like trying to find the island from Lost. There may be a straight line, that lasts for maybe a few weeks, like say my current Tim Hardin kick, but then the familiar landscape disappears into a dark, and uncomfortably moist alley of say, the Wax Trax! catalog, or God forbid, the salivating sounds of the time-sucking Minutemen. Both destinations I know and love all too well.
Like never-ending roots stemming from a strong and unmoving base, our own personal music paths are as organic and ever expanding as a giant Sycamore. Is that by design, or are we fishing bobbers floating atop a steady stream awaiting a dip below? (Waiting for Country Joe and the Fish perhaps? I had to.)
Ok, fine, enough with the metaphors. This will never happen, but I’d LOVE to attempt a personal map of my music listening history. I have no doubt it would take me several years, would necessitate several “gray areas,” and would likely require the X, Y, and dreaded Z axes. It’s all coming back to me now… I should have paid more attention in Math class.