Jan 2017 10

Category: Synthpop / Industrial
Album: Trax! Rarities
Stars: 3
Blurb: Offering a not-so-rare and often ironic glimpse into a specific time when Al Jourgensen was developing his sound and style to eventually become one of the pioneering figures in the industrial scene.


The scorn that Al Jourgensen has held for the early synthpop years of MINISTRY has become something of a delightful joke for the industrial music scene, many even going so far as to own and actually enjoy With Sympathy without irony… and perhaps rightly so. Though not indicative of where Jourgensen’s musical predilections and tastes would take MINISTRY over the years, and often decried by the man as the result of record label politics and creative interference, it was a fine album for the commercial synthpop genre. However, in recent years, Uncle Al’s been seemingly more acknowledging of what hasn’t been his proudest moment, and with Cleopatra Records’ limited edition double album of Trax! Rarities, he seems to finally officially embrace that past with a collection of demos, live tracks, and other rarities from his early faux-British accented days.

Starting off the proceedings are four live tracks from the band’s performance in Detroit on July 10, 1982, and there is a certain charm to hearing the young Uncle Al speaking in a calmer, less acerbic natural tone before belting out a quite spastic vocal delivery befitting the post-punk new wave ambience of songs like “Love Change” and “America.” The chiming guitars of “Never Asked for Nothing” almost lend a U2-esque vibe to the song, while “What Is the Reason” could easily be updated to MINISTRY’s more speed/metal sound with just a shift in tempo and louder guitars, Jourgensen’s howls of “You really don’t care!” easily sounding like something one might’ve heard on Psalm 69 or any later album.

Next up are five demos from 1982-1983, with “Same Old Madness” bouncing its way right through the speakers with a pulsating synth bass and some rather lovely harmonies in the chorus to make for a decidedly catchy tune. With Jourgensen singing about the “Same Old Scene” amid layers of funky bass and punchy synths that would please aficionados of the current trends of synthwave, along with the darkly upbeat “Let’s Be Happy,” the irony of this era’s appeal among fans is certainly not lost on the man even then. The thrumming bass and crystalline guitars of “Game Is Over” almost bear a likeness to Killing Joke, while “I See Red” and “Self Annoyed” from just prior to the Twitch era make for a marvelous transition into the harder edged territory Jourgensen would take with MINISTRY and his many side projects.

Speaking of side projects, next up are some rare tracks from Revolting Cocks, including the originally banned version of the band’s cover of Olivia Newton John’s “(Let’s Get) Physical,” which should please longtime fans to hear the track in its earlier, much more aggressive and rawer form. “Drums Along the Carbide,” originally released as a 7-inch single in 1988, and the previously unreleased “Fish In Cold Water,” as well as the dub mix of Pailhead’s “Don’t Stand In Line,” all do well to transport the listener back to those halcyon days of the late ‘80s WaxTrax! era with their thunderous percussion and steely bass lines, and while “Show Me Your Spine” from PTP may not be as rare now as it once was, it’s still a pleasure to hear Nivek Ogre’s distorted voice amid those scathing stabs of orchestra hits and imagine Robocop crashing your favorite modern day goth/industrial nightclub. A dub remix of “Supernaut” from 1000 Homo DJs ends the proceedings, though this remix offers little that fans of the track won’t already have or wish to hear.

Some might question the validity of Trax! Rarities as almost all of this material has been featured on the Trax! Box set Cleopatra released in 2015, this limited edition double album being a more condensed version of that collection… but that would be the point as it is also available digitally to give fans and collectors a more readily accessible set of songs from MINISTRY’s once maligned past, now apparently embraced by ol’ Uncle Al Jourgensen. For this alone, Trax! Rarities is worth at least the listen for longtime fans who might enjoy a snapshot of a specific time when the electro/industrial scene seemed more fertile ground for creativity and raw power, and when one of the pioneering acts of the genre started to truly develop its sound and style.
Track list:

  1. Never Asked for Nothing (Detroit 7.10.82)
  2. Love Change (Detroit 7.10.82)
  3. What Is the Reason (Detroit 7.10.82)
  4. America (Detroit 7.10.82)
  5. Same Old Madness (1982 Demo)
  6. Game Is Over (1983 Demo)
  7. Let’s Be Happy (1983 Demo)
  8. Same Old Scene (1983 Demo)
  9. Wait (1983 Demo)
  10. I See Red
  11. Self Annoyed
  12. Revolting Cocks – Fish In Cold Water
  13. Revolting Cocks – (Let’s Get) Physical [Banned Version]
  14. PTP – Show Me Your Spine
  15. Pailhead – Don’t Stand In Line [Dub Mix]
  16. Revolting Cocks – Drums Along the Carbide
  17. 1000 Homo DJs – Supernaut [Dub Remix]

MINISTRY/Al Jourgensen
Website, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, YouTube
Cleopatra Records
MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp
Purchase at:
Amazon Vinyl
Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

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