The Angriest Album in the World…

7 10 2008

…could well be Rio Grande Blood, the 2nd in Ministry’s trilogy of Bush-hate albums.

Lucky for me, I discovered the trilogy late– after all three albums were out. I had been basically ignoring Ministry for years, ever since the huge let-down that was Filth Pig. The follow up Dark Side of the Spoon was far short of a return to form, although it has grown on me. Jourgensen’s bludgeoned wail choosing self-destruction over drug treatment (“don’t wanna be okay”) is far more poignant than Amy Winehouse’s neo-soul pop, in my expert opinion. Animositisomina was much closer to classic Ministry, but not strong enough to restore the urgent need for new albums that drives me to obsessively collect my favorite artists. That’s a long way of saying that I haven’t particularly been watching for new Ministry material.

My brother was visiting last year, and we took him to Music Millenium. I don’t buy many physical CDs anymore, but the store is a Portland landmark, you gotta take the out-of-town guests there. Like Powell’s and Voodoo Donut. So there we are, and I flip through the Ministry section just to see what’s there, and I find Houses of the Mole. The title is mysterious, the cover art is cool, the song listing is all but indecipherable. I take it home, and it is good. It is really really good.

I had to read the review on iTunes to learn that the album is a hate letter to li’l bush. Sure, there are some sound bites of his voice, but presidential sampling is practically de rigeur in industrial music. The biggest clue is that every song starts with W, except for track 1, noW, a nice title inversion of Psalm 69‘s hate anthem to Bush Sr, N.W.O. Pretty subtle for a noise machine like Ministry. In fact, the whole album strikes me as subtle, even thoughtful. It concerns the indirect effects of W’s administration, all the creeping poison of paranoia and disinformation and dischord.

Reading iTunes reviews obviously clued me in to the rest of the trilogy. I waited a long time before buying part 2. It’s no good buying too many albums all at once, all the novelty just wears off faster. Anyway I had just discovered Nightwish and Ohgr‘s new material, and a bunch of other stuff.

But finally I did pick up Rio Grande Blood. There have been a handful of times in my life when I’ve been blinded by rage, when nothing will do but to hit something with something else until one thing breaks. Usually what breaks is me, so I don’t do that anymore. But that’s what Rio Grand Blood sounds like. It sounds like scraping the pavement at 100 mph. It sounds like the guys are wailing on the gear so hard they can barely hang on. Aside from a couple lapses into wacko territory (“Do you still think jet fuel brought down the World Trade Center?”) and a somewhat lame attack on Marine drill sergeants (yes, they swear at the soldiers, we know) it is the only response to li’l bush’s administration that makes sense. If you’re like me, you’ve asked yourself over and over since 2001, “Where is the outrage?” It’s all here, packed into 51 minutes.

Where do you go from there? Clearly you synthesize the thoughtfulness (yes, I said it again, stop smirking) of Houses of the Mole with the explosive anger of Rio Grande Blood, and you get The Last Sucker. The final chapter of the trilogy is less daring than the first, less berserk than the second, but it delivers on many levels. Watch Yourself has only a couple dozen words, but speaks volumes about the USA’s fall into just another authoritative, intrusive regime. The album title seems to refer to the last Bush supporter, finally recognizing the scam as W leaves office. According to the title song, the last sucker is Bush himself. How appropriate. The album wraps up with the entirety of Eisenhower’s farewell address, the prescient and tragically unheeded warning against the “military-industrial complex.”

Despite the odd stumble (“Dick Cheney, son of Satan”? That’s practically a compliment coming from these guys) I have to say it’s Ministry’s strongest album ever. It’s also their last album ever, if you can believe any band making that claim. But what a way to go out.

In these waning days of his administration, li’l bush only gets less and less relevant. Another Republican victory remains a plausible and terrifying prospect, but I’m essentially optimistic about Obama pointing the White House back toward sanity. Even so, the memory hole of America has become unbelievably voracious. We will need records and documents and visceral reminders like Ministry’s music to hold the bastards’ feet to the fire.




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