Music

Ministry: Trax! Rarities

Once more into the vault for a double-vinyl showcase of the many faces (and styles) of Al Jourgensen and Co. Culled from the awesome 2015 Trax! Box.


Ministry

Trax! Rarities

Label: Cleopatra
Release Date: 2016-12-09
Amazon
iTunes

The 1980s and early '90s were a crazy, mixed-up, and ultimately magical time for Al Jourgensen. But this is a story that has been told several times before. It was told comprehensively, too, in the form of the unmissable Ministry: Trax! Box set that was released in 2015. Aside from the major label releases, everything you wanted to know about Ministry, Al, and his clown car full of side-projects was there, including a trove of rare and previously-unreleased material.

Trax! Rarities collects four vinyl sides' worth of the Trax! Box rarities and adds one "ultra rare" exclusive as collector bait. But that exclusive is just a totally inessential Revolting Cocks instrumental, making Trax! Rarities redundant. Because, if you are a Ministry or Wax Trax! Records fan, you really need the entire Box.

What Trax! Rarities is good for, at least in vinyl format, is enunciating the drastic artistic shift Jourgensen made in the mid-'80s. (In)famously, Jourgensen has claimed Ministry "sold out" to commercial considerations early in their career, rather than the traditional other way around. Trax! Rarities' first two sides are devoted to this nascent, synth-poppy period. None of the nine songs made their way onto Ministry's 1983 Arista debut, With Sympathy, but they certainly cleared the path for it.

To listen to some of Jourgensen's past pronouncements, he and the band were forced at gunpoint by Arista to record glossy, Brit-inspired dance-pop songs for With Sympathy, rather than the far more left-field material he wanted to explore. Trax! Rarities puts that storyline to bed once and for all. Here is Al, on these pre-Arista live tracks and finished-sounding demos, in full-on New Wave mode. The Cuban-American singer has already instated his faux-British accent, rhyming "again" with "refrain" with gusto. On live tracks like "What Is the Reason" and "America", Jourgensen's ultra-nasal sneering does suggest a latent anger, but it never really comes across in the music. If there were ever any doubt about Jourgensen's ascetics, the faithful cover of Roxy Music's tres romantique "Same Old Scene" settles the matter.

There are a couple of minor revelations, in the form of musical colors Jourgensen tried on but never committed to vinyl. "Never Asked For Nothing" is brooding, Joy Division-inspired post-punk, and the superior "Game Is Over" is sweeping, grandiose Europop, in many ways more produced than even With Sympathy. And, in Trax! Rarities' most shocking turn, "Let's Be Happy" is not ironic at all! Instead, it's a strangely pertinent put-down of the doom-and-gloom news cycle. The problem is, Stephen George's awesome drumming aside, most of these songs ultimately are forgettable, a fact borne out by their lack if inclusion on With Sympathy.

Sides Three and Four of Trax! Rarites catch up with Jourgensen and Ministry in 1985 after industrial music had become their primary influence. The pulsating, apocalyptic "Self Annoyed" is the best thing in the collection, as Jourgensen reveals a strong Skinny Puppy fixation. That band's Nivek Ogre actually shows up on the skittish, electro-tinged "Show Me Your Spine" from PTP, just one of the many collaborations Jourgensen and Ministry cohort Paul Barker released on the iconic Wax Trax! label under different names. Revolting Cocks' perfect trashing of Olivia Newton John's "Physical" here has the original's lyrics restored. The 1990 RevCo release featured alternate lyrics after the songwriters took issue with the irreverent take-- and quite possibly punishing music, too. Probably the best of the side projects was Pailhead with Minor Threat/Fugazi leader Ian MacKaye, represented here by an alternate version of the manifesto "Don't Stand In Line".

What you won't get on Trax! Rarities is one of the most sought-after Jourgensen outtakes. Under the 1000 Homo DJs moniker, the Ministry gang teamed up with Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor for a cover of Black Sabbath's "Supernaut". Reznor did the vocals, but Reznor's label refused to allow a release on Wax Trax!. The original Reznor vocal version eventually surfaced. You'll have to shell out for Trax! Box for that, though. The upside is your money will be better spent than on a listenable but ultimately money-grubbing exercise like Trax! Rarities.

6

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Music

Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.

Music

IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.

Music

Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.

Film

NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.

Music

The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.