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Psychic TV/PTV3

Mr. Alien Brain vs. the Skinwalkers

(Sweet Nothing; US: 25 Nov 2008; UK: 17 Nov 2008)

“It doesn’t bother me at all, the idea of death. The sooner we die, the sooner we’re with Jaye in the same dimension.”
—Genesis P-Orridge, in Radar Magazine


The shadow of Lady Jaye is all over Mr. Alien Brain vs. the Skinwalkers, the latest album from Genesis P-Orridge’s musical outlet and performance project Psychic TV/PTV3. Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge, Genesis’ beloved muse and partner, passed from this plane a year ago this past October. In the time since her death, Genesis has only stepped up the level of devotion he shows to the one s/he lived for, the one he lived to be. He has continued his ongoing project to become one being with her; he has planned more surgeries (for the purpose of looking more like her, as she was doing for him as well), he is wearing her clothes on a constant basis (even more than he did before her passing), and his music is fraught with an empty sort of pain, even in the love songs, that no small amount of reflection and pep talks are going to fix.


“This is the day / This the way we play / This is the thing we say / Hey hey hey,” he says absently in “Pickles and Jam”, perhaps offering a glimpse at an empty world without the one he misses the most. This is the most heart-rending thing about Mr. Alien Brain vs. the Skinwalkers; up until this point, part of P-Orridge’s appeal was that of a man above our earthly conceits, a man who would wink and laugh at our strange little obsessions as he would observe them. P-Orridge rarely betrayed pain in anything but a theatrical sense; while surely it was often pain and anguish in various guises that drove his work, it was always veiled in a thick layer of sarcasm and irony. In the shadow of the passing of Lady Jaye, he sounds worn, defeated by the realities of this world, and it’s quite frankly almost impossible to listen to.


He’s less cognizant of pitch than ever. His timing is as liberally off as ever. And he goes long stretches without really saying anything. This is not the P-Orridge we’ve come to know.


Still, the band behind P-Orridge comes through for him like it never has before. Up until this point, it was difficult to separate the man from the band, as it was so obviously driven and directed entirely by his twisted vision, but much of Mr. Alien Brain vs. the Skinwalkers sounds as though it was borne of psychedelic jam sessions, with many of the tracks coming out as far more traditionally rock ‘n roll oriented than the vast majority of PTV’s recent output. “Papal Breakdance”, which actually starts out with a beat that sounds like that of a Skinny Puppy song in the mid-‘80s, eventually turns into a pretty, propulsive love song. “Have mercy / Have mercy on me / I love you,” P-Orridge cries over a backdrop of rolling bass, guitar wash, and twinkling synths.


It’s a beautiful, almost naïve mess, and it’s a fascinating document of the respect of a band for its leader and the devotion of that leader to the object of his affection.


The problem with taking this approach for so much of an album, then, is that deviating from such a serious topic and backdrop can’t help but come off as disingenuous. When you listen to “Foggy Notion”, almost a Stones tribute with its tribal beats, just-a-bit-messy electric guitars and tambourines, you wonder how the band is supposed to be having any fun when so much of the album is this sad, downtrodden, utterly fascinating mess. Not only this, but to follow something like “Foggy Notion” up with “I Am Making a Mirror” could actually induce vertigo.


This is because “I Am Making a Mirror” just utterly and completely rips your heart out. It’s Lady Jaye herself, right up front in the mix, reading a poem, over a static, beatless melodic backdrop while Genesis stays in the background, distantly but audibly wailing at the top of his lungs to nobody in particular. This is how it feels to witness true human mourning, and there’s nothing pleasant or enjoyable about it, which is not in any way a knock against it. In case we weren’t devestated enough, the whole thing closes with a short bit of mechanical noise centered around Jaye telling Genesis “I love you,” and his response: “I know.” The very last sound we hear on the album (save for a bonus cover of the 13th Floor Elevators’ “Rollercoaster” that really should have been saved for another release) is Lady Jaye, as a matter of fact, saying “I love you so much.”


That Genesis P-Orridge would center an entire album around the death of his beloved tells us that this is one way he is dealing with his pain; he is confronting it, assembling a document on which he is forced to face the fact of her departure. It’s not a perfect album by any means, and yet to try and evaluate it on such terms and assign a score to it almost seems disrespectful. Still, in a strictly evaluative sense, it’s a fascinating album, utterly essential for those who have followed P-Orridge’s career to this point. For those who haven’t done so, the album could well sound like a complete sloppy mess of a thing, but there’s also a DVD here as context. It doesn’t provide much in the way of new content (indeed, the “live” material is mostly at-the-show visuals with audio directly from the CD), but it does do a good job—particularly in the candid moments it offers—of underlining what Lady Jaye meant to Genesis when she was around. When the short DVD ends, it ends with an epigraph:


Dedicated to the memory
of Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge
1969-2007
S/he Is (Still) Her/e”


It’s all the context anyone should need.

Rating:

Mike Schiller is a software engineer in Buffalo, NY who enjoys filling the free time he finds with media of any sort -- music, movies, and lately, video games. Stepping into the role of PopMatters Multimedia editor in 2006 after having written music and game reviews for two years previous, he has renewed his passion for gaming to levels not seen since his fondly-remembered college days of ethernet-enabled dorm rooms and all-night Goldeneye marathons. His three children unconditionally approve of their father's most recent set of obsessions.


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