Monday, July 2, 2012

Ministry   Filth Pig (1996): (82%)

Every one has that one album in their collection that they love for a variety of reasons that no one else could probably understand. For some, it’s probably a pop record that is too sweet for most ears, but seems just right to them. But I am not necessarily talking about guilty pleasures here. I’m talking about a record that has been swept under the carpet by so many fans and critics, that even its legacy is collecting dirt, dust, stray hairs, lint, and is being eaten away by the occasional critter that darts out from underneath said metaphorical rug when you attempt to lift it. These albums eventually disintegrate into obscurity and are never heard of, or from, again. For me, this undeserved masterpiece is Ministry’s follow up to the industrial thrash of 1992’s Psalm 69. This album is Filth Pig.

To a certain degree, I do almost like this album better than Psalm 69. I have memories of raging out in my car and room to tracks like “N.W.O.” and “Just One Fix.” I don’t even think I can listen to the closing track, “Grace,” in the dark without envisioning my own descent into the eternal pit of oblivion. As much as I love that album, Filth Pig is the kind of underdog record I have a weakness for, and it has the distinct honor of being the album I listened to when I faced rejection after rejection after rejection x5 when asking girls to be my date for senior prom. Rejection is hard to swallow, but hearing Al Jourgensen scream “FILTH…PIG!” in my ears was actually a pleasant reassurance that their beauty was only skin deep. You may call it jealousy, but I call it pure console.

If I have any vague and cryptic praise to offer the album, it would have to be that it’s one of those rare pieces of work that’s so good, it’s bad. Listening to it, you know the album knows that it’s bad, but that’s what I love about it. This is more or less the opposite of a guilty pleasure where the album in question thinks it’s good, but ultimately comes across as repellent to nearly everybody but a select few who would never admit their admiration for it in front of another sentient entity. I’m also fairly confident that both Al Jourgensen and Paul Barker were so mired in the hellish throes of heroin addiction that I doubt they know this album exists. The songs are also evidence that while Hypo and Hermes (their production monikers) were in the studio, they just weren’t present. The introductory track, “Reload,” staggers, stutters and stumbles its way from the industrial noises Ministry is renowned for. However, this track provides the bridge from Psalm 69 to Filth Pig. “Reload” provides the ideal segue into the initiation of their sludge/doom metal sounds in the title track. Besides “Reload” and “Crumbs,” nearly every viscous track oozes about or over 6 minutes in length. There’s probably a good reason why Hypo/Hermes never attempted a production like this again.

The lengths plus what else follows may be turn-offs to “normal” people, but to me, as long as the main riff sounds good, I don’t mind the song lengths one bit. The centerpiece, or to some, the test of endurance, is “Game Show” that repeats the same stuttering riff for nearly eight minutes, but its chorus is where they attempt to capture that moment of terrifying descent as demonstrated in Psalm 69’s “Grace.” As far as sludge and doom go, it does get lively and heavy in tracks like “Dead Guy” and “Useless.” Probably the most doomy and sludgy that it gets would be in “The Fall.” “Grace” is the pondering of what catastrophic fears of the unknown have in store for those who are brave enough to venture. “The Fall” is experiencing the unknown and feeling horrified because you know you may never escape from it.   

I almost have to laugh because what follows is a Bob Dylan cover of “Lay Lady Lay.” I don’t think anybody has been privy of a sludge/doom/industrial band that not only wants to cover a folk song by a musical giant, but actually believes they could adapt it successfully. In terms of success, it receives the bear minimum, but ultimately sounds like a welcoming shift in direction for the album (kinda). It’s the only place on the album where you can hear acoustic guitars to keep some sense of folk. However, the ending I have not quite sunk into. “Brickwindows” is a fine track in its own right, but actually sounds like the bouncy outcast track of the doomy bunch on this album. Then again, it sounds happy the way John Wayne Gacy was happy being around children.

“You lie like a dog, you’re gonna wake up with fleas/ Inside a world full of shit, you’re still an asshole to me” is yelled to us as a possible response to British House of Parliament member, Teddy Taylor for calling Jourgensen a “filthy pig.” Essentially, this album is about being kicked, beaten and left for dead when you’re already depressed and marred with a badass drug addiction. This album aims to have a conversation with its anti-social audience and from time to time say, “People do suck, don’t they? Well that’s okay, I feel the same way.” It’s one of those bad day/bad mood/bad-shit-always-happens-to-me albums that gets bashed for being unashamed of what it is. Even the guy on the front cover stares at you apathetically, not giving a damn if you had an interest in listening to this album or not.

Since I recognize what this album is all about, I love it, and I will defend it until the day I die. As a broke teenager who had virtually no income other than the 15 dollars I got from mowing the lawn once a week, I was more than willing and happy to slap down $5.35 for a used and scratched copy of this album. Less than two years later with a banal fast food job, I would find myself at another used record store thumbing through the usual supply of vinyl, when all of a sudden, an unintentional scream of ecstasy escaped my lips: I held in my hands a vinyl copy of Filth Pig with the guy on the cover glaring at me even though his eyes were blocked by the sticker placed on the shrinkwrap reading “MINISTRY  FILTH PIG.” I rejoiced again when I saw that it was only $11.99. That, to me, was the steal of a lifetime. I laughed as I remembered how every one who came into contact with this album hated it, which was probably the reason why it was so cheap to begin with. It’s quite possibly the best 12 dollars I’ve spent at a Wooden Nickel (Hi Bob!), and possibly the best 12 bucks I’ll spend period. Out of my immense respect for the album, I still have not opened it. I’m waiting for the day when I’ll need it the most.

Music: 9/10
Lyrics: 8/10
Meaning: 8/10
Length: 8/10
Significance: 6/10
Overall Impression: 9/10

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