A new world order! A new world order!
Limping into 1992 like the scabby one-eyed rabid junkyard dog they were, Ministry took one long baleful look at the world around them and hit the mainline. They sculpted a malicious nugget of raw cynicism and called it ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ. Catchy though ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ is as a title, let us use the alternative one, Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs*.
Kicking off with ‘N.W.O’ what first strikes me in 2017 is how nostalgic and safe George H.W Bush’s voice sounds to me, the times they have a’changed. The track is just magnificent, a barrage of beats and guitar licks augmented by samples from Apocalypse Now and Mr Bush. When I first heard it, I remember thinking ‘Wow, this is cyber metal!’ and I stand by that today. Ministry tilted their industrial racket far more towards thrash metal than I remember anyone else doing at the time and despite the odd Luddite moaning about ‘how samplers weren’t rock’, most of us just went for the volume and feel of it.
The ferocious ‘Just One Fix’ adds Slayer, Frank Sinatra (dialogue from The Man With The Golden Arm), Hellraiser and Sid & Nancy to the syringe. When I first heard it, in about ’93 I thought it was the best new heavy music that I had heard in years. I still keep this one on close rotation too.
Psalm 69 continues with ‘TV II’ is a strange, ranting symphony of noise – ‘Connect the Goddamned darts!’, indeed. A real imploding nugget of negativity^^. ‘Hero’ is yet another slice of speed metal perfection, blurring and glitching the boundaries between what the band produce and what they engineer – Jourgensen’s voice reduced to a supremely sinister rasp as he bashes the unseeingly patriotic.
Side 1 finishes with ‘Jesus Built My Hotrod’, shortened from the expansive insanity of the 12″ single version, this version is more intense but I miss some of the samples from the longer take. Gibby Haynes’ pissed gibbering is always a treat though. I think some of these men may have taken drugs once.
‘Scarecrow’ is a real treat, the moment for me when Ministry really create something new here. The band take their cold scabrous sheets of sound and fashion them into a new expansive shape, ripping off a trick or two of Johnny Marr’s too, unless my damaged old ears deceive me. I could listen to it for hours.
…unlike the title track ‘Psalm 69’ which is just childishly daft really. Being lewdly profane about religion? it’s a bit smartarsed teenager for my tastes now. It’s the sort of track that is just trying too hard for a bit of a fuss and a bit of controversy. Sit down Al, have a cup of tea and a biscuit and let us talk through your issues constructively, there’s no need to go on about the ‘devil’s cock’ so often, is there?
The final two blasts on Psalm 69 are ‘Corrosion’ and ‘Grace’ which are again two noise sculptures, full of blasting beats, squalls of feedback and sirens but they work much less well for me than ‘Scare Crow’ where the vision just seems more fully realised.
I loved this LP when I first heard it and, a couple of duffers aside, love it still. Sometimes when you get angry enough with the waters of humanity you don’t need the answers, it’s enough just to be the one pissing in the well.
I picked up the 10″ single of N.W.O a few years later in a second-hand shop, lured to my doom by the promise of an ‘extended dance mix’ of the title track and non-album track demurely called ‘Fucked’. I know, I know I’m just a pushover for some good swearing.
Needless to say after negotiating the (deliberate?) irritant of the single playing at 45RPM, instead of the 33RPM it was marked at, ‘N.W.O (Extended dance Mix)’ isn’t really anything of the sort. It is longer, louder, sounds a little punchier and we get some bonus Joseph McCarthy samples. Again, this is rage in excelsis – everything that is angry and cleansing in the world is here.
I really can’t get enough of this:
I’m in love with this malicious intent
You’ve been taken but you don’t know it yet
Funnily enough the normal LP version feels a bit puny when played straight afterwards.
But does ‘Fucked’ live up to its’ name? no, it’s a dull atmosphere piece, not enough malicious intent for me.
Jesus built my car
It’s a love affair
Mainly Jesus and my hot rod
Yeah, fuck it!
PS: I wouldn’t recommend this 2014 re-release of Psalm 69, it may be 180g weight but it feels shallowly cut and is a bit prone to skipping even when freshly cleaned. I would recommend grabbing an older version if you see one around. This was a public service announcement on behalf of scabby one-eyed rabid junkyard dogs everywhere.
*it’s an Aleister Crowley in-joke, from his Book Of Lies. From chapter 69 of it in fact where he uses the phrase ‘the way to succeed and the way to suck eggs’ as a smutty euphemism for mutual oral pleasure. Truly he was an instrument of Satan**.
**and not just a rapacious chancer with a main eye for publicity. Nope he wasn’t one of those at all^.
^and I say this as someone who has read a certain amount of his stuff; Moonchild was good.
^^Negativity Nuggets best served with fries and salad.