Today it feels like this took place sometime late in the Jurassic period, but squeezed somewhere in between Eddie Vedder’s choreographed but still seemingly dangerous scaling of the lights rig during “Alive,” and the Red Hot Chili Peppers setting their hard hats ablaze—they would upgrade from Arik Marshall to Dave Navarro and to light bulbs two years later—Al Jorgensen and Ministry came on as the sun went down and stole the show from both venerable acts; a standout of an under-whelming Lollapalooza ‘92 tour.
The show was at the Jones Beach Amphitheater in Long Island, N.Y., and I saw what I thought to be a pretty good lineup. This included the Jesus and Mary Chain and Lush playing in the daylight hours, Ice Cube and the Jim Rose Circus Show, but truly, the only thing memorable was Ministry: outlandish, provoking without the burden of thought, and unrelenting. They were fresh off the release of Psalm 69 (arguably their best release up to that point) and were gaining some momentum thanks to MTV and the Gibby Hayes-assisted “Jesus Built My Hotrod.” It was a time, you’ll remember, when the industry saw dollar signs in alternative rock, and the 11,000 or so in attendance that night were treated to skulls and crossbones flying across the stage on dress carts, monster men, fey devil worship and as one writer once stated, “enough bite to feed a third world country.”
It may have not been 144 million years ago, but today Al Jourgensen has soldiered on after Ministry’s major label-dom came to a screeching halt with 1998’s Dark Side of the Spoon. Ministry is now a Sanctuary recording artist and Jourgensen has given his longtime loyalists a treat with Side Trax, a Wax Trax compilation that compiles all four of his ‘80s side projects—Pailhead, 1000 Homo DJs, PTP, and Acid Horse—onto one CD. (Side Trax was simultaneously released with three Revolting Cocks releases and Early Trax which cobbles together Ministry’s early singles on Wax Trax along with four unreleased tracks. All releases have been remastered.)
Six Pailhead tracks start off the record, which teams Jourgensen with Ian Mackaye of Fugazi and Minor Threat. “Man Should Surrender” is a chillingly effective opener with a dense groove that lurches forward through a minefield of electronic bleeps and guitar crunch. The rest of Pailhead’s offerings follow a similar path, and are skeletal, almost minimalist, compared to some of Ministry’s more kitchen-sink productions. “Don’t Stand in Line,” “I Will Refuse” and “Ballad” have a wonderfully anachronistic feel, making Pailhead a real treat. Things get even better with four tracks from 1000 Homo DJs: “Apathy” has that unpleasantly neurotic dance vibe going for it, “Better Ways” is an industrial rock dirge with Richard Butler/John Lydon vocals, and the DJs’ cover of Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut” (featuring Trent Reznor) is probably the best thing on Side Trax. Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys then joins the after party to contribute his voice to the amusing throwaway, “Hey Asshole”.
By the time it gets to PTP, Side Trax is peeling off its industrial rock tendencies and going strictly for the underground dance crowd. Revolting Cocks-like tracks “Rubber Glove Seduction” and “Favorite Things” prove to be far from memorable excursions, though “Favorite Things” does have Jourgensen cooing the line, “Soft and gentle, sentimental ” which is just as hilarious as you think it might be. Side Trax finishes up with PTP’s “Show Me Your Spine” an unreleased track from the movie Robocop which features Orge from Skinny Puppy, but might give you a headache if you’re prone to them. Acid Horse, the final collaboration featuring Ministry and Cabaret Voltaire, gives us two different mixes of one song.
So without any outtakes, B-sides, or moonlighting compilation, Side Trax is hit and miss, but it strikes the mark enough, which should be satisfactory for most Ministry fans. One of the truisms of all side projects is that an artist does tend to become a little less self-aware and less likely to edit himself or herself, for better or worse. Side Trax is a case in point for the better: for all its indulgences, it’s one of the more interesting compilations of the year.