[23 February 2006]
Al Jourgensen, the driving force, founder, and de-facto leader of all forms of Ministry, used to do a techno turn at the turntable (remember “Twitch”?). But happy dance music was not for A.J., who turned those same dance beats into something angry, sweaty, and brutal. Such was the lay of the land, and for 25 up and down years, Jourgensen (with long-time bassist and coordinator Paul Barker) threw Ministry down a path no one else ventured down for more than a brief stroll. Ministry is thought to be the “grandfather of industrial”, with groups like Nine Inch Nails, Skinny Puppy, and My Life With Thrill Kill Kult citing A.J. and crew as their guiding light.
Ministry put out three straight albums of pure punishment, with beats that begged for body movement, more often than not in a mosh pit. Walls of guitars were both brutal and melodic, and Jourgensen became a master at editing snippets of political snarkiness into the mix. The Land of Rape and Honey, The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste, and the classic Psalm 69 (The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs) were all industrial masterpieces. The band never enjoyed higher status than at that point… until Jourgensen let his excesses get the best of him. His heroin use slowly but surely destroyed the band, as the following two albums (the okay, but not great Filth Pig, and the putrid Dark Side of the Spoon) spelled the end of the Ministry joy ride. After a few years, A.J. cleaned himself up and decided to write from the gut again, and the resulting Animositisomina (a palindrome) got Ministry back on track. After that album’s subsequent tour, Barker decided to call it quits.
So it was all up to Al. And instead of retreating, he put out one of his best albums ever, last year’s Houses of the Molé, a return to form for Ministry. (He has said in interviews that he puts out his best work when a Republican is in the White House, since there’s no better mechanism for getting pissed off than that.) But Sanctuary Records, his current label, wanted him to put out a hits package this year to celebrate 25 years. Jourgensen argued that Warner Bros., his old label, did a hits package thing in 2004 (Greatest Fits). But Jourgensen did agree to a compromise: a remix of some of the Ministry classics and favorites, plus a few live versions of songs, and a preview of one brand new song that will be coming out on his new album, coincidentally released on Valentine’s Day (it’s tentatively titled Rio Grande Blood).
Rantology is said compromise. The word “hodgepodge” is apt. There are classics given the remix treatment, such as “N.W.O.”, which of course, manages to smack down both father and son Bush. “Stigmata” will always be a great song, no matter how it’s remixed. “No W”, which bashes Bush Jr., features more quotations from our fearless leader for Jourgensen to recontextualize. “Jesus Built My Hot Rod” is stretched out, but the psychotic rambling of guest vocalist Gibby Haynes (Butthole Surfers) and the breakneck drumming makes the longer version okay. The new song, “The Great Satan”, talks—make that rants—about Osama you-know-who and the war in general. But the gems of the album are the last three songs, live versions of “Psalm 69”, “Thieves”, and “The Fall”. In that troika lies the reminder of why Ministry is such a powerful band live.
This is not an album that will bring new fans into the fold (for that, the classic trio of The Land of Rape and Honey, The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste, and Psalm 69 (The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs) is the best way to introduce yourself to the band). Old Ministry fans will find just enough here to satisfy their curiosity without lamenting Jourgensen going for the money grab. Besides, the way things are going in the world nowadays, a little ranting—or in this case, Rantology—is good for the soul.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/ministry_rantology/