Al Jourgensen has a wicked sense of humour. Of all the dark lords of the industrial pantheon, he is the one who always favoured a Jolly Roger over the death’s head standard of angst flown by his fellow travellers.
His vision of the apocalypse involved hot rods; the number of his beast was 69. He may have impressed a young [a]Marilyn Manson[/a] by decorating his mic stand with roadkill, but really, he was just fucking with us.
‘Dark Side Of The Spoon’‘s title continues the Ministry tradition of sarcastic levity begun by ‘The Land Of Rape And Honey’ and ‘The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste’, but the joke isn’t all that funny any more. Even before Ministry‘s live guitarist, William Tucker, slit his throat the other week, Ministry‘s last album – 1996’s ‘Filth Pig’ – was a Pandora’s box of wracked redneck dirges palpably influenced by half a lifetime on the needle.
Rumour has it the label required Ministry‘s contract-closing record to have legs, not just trackmarks, putting Jourgensen – a man with country death dirges on the brain – in the ironic position of being forced to imitate his imitators to get The Man off his back.
‘Dark Side…’, then, is a contrary beast. Superficially, songs like ‘Supermanic Soul’ and the cataclysmic ‘Bad Blood’ sound like the Ministry of ‘Psalm 69’: all unforgiving breakneck beats and ten-gallon riffage, topped off with Jourgensen‘s treated holler. ‘Step’, meanwhile, is a characteristic bilious sneer at lightweight pop stars in rehab (“I need hey-ulp!”).
But there are more sides to the spoon. ‘Vex And Siolence’ marks a funereal outpouring of nihilism (“Here is the end/Here is nothing”) which elsewhere finds suitably gothy release. Most curious though, are the jazz numbers: the seven-minute ‘Nursing Home’ boasts an Eastern string loop, a demented saxophone and assorted electronic wheezes. Add to this 58 tracks of silence and a weird sing-song dialogue on track 69, and ‘Dark Side…’ amounts to an uneven, frequently unfunny knot of confusion. It’s as though Jourgensen‘s swapped his black humour for a black dog that won’t stop howling, however much he beats it.
“Where did the good times go?”, wonders Jourgensen on ‘Kaif’. The answer’s up his sleeve.