During my high school years there were three albums that generated legitimate fear-inducing emotional responses. Albums that were so powerful and intense, so different that what I had come to expect from music, that not only was my mind blown, but I wasn’t even sure how to react. They were:
- Metallica – Master of Puppets (1986)
- Skinny Puppy – Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse (1986)
- Butthole Surfers – Locust Abortion Technician (1987)
I first heard Metallica and Skinny Puppy at my friend Jason’s house during many a long night sitting in his room, listening to music, and waiting for his parents to go to sleep so we could sneak outside. I got over the initial shock of Master of Puppets by 1988 when I was blown away by their live set at the US Monsters of Rock tour (amazing to think that they came on second in the five-band line-up, playing before both Dokken and Scorpions), which hit Seattle about a month before …And Justice for All was released. Since then I’ve listened to Master of Puppets something like 10,000 times and I still think it’s awesome.
I’d never revisited Skinny Puppy, and despite their unexplainable appearance on Sub Pop 100 my best guess is I’ve never heard one of their songs anywhere other than in Jason’s room or his truck. Until now. I’ve kept my eyes open for a used copy of Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse, and I finally found a cheap one at a record show the other day. It was scuffed up, but for five bucks it seemed time to exorcise my musical demons and see if Skinny Puppy were as terrifying almost 30 years later.
The answer is of course they’re not. But c’mon, how much stuff that was cutting edge 30 years ago still sounds like that today? After all, industrial and electronic music have expanded like the big bang since then and even found mainstream success with the more approachable styles of bands like NIN and the theatrical approach of people like Marilyn Manson. And please don’t take that as a criticism of the modern day industrialists – I like a lot of what they’re doing. But given that I’ve had way more exposure to all kinds of music in the last few decades, including industrial, it stands to reason that Skinny Puppy will have lost its power to scare the hell out of me. Instead what I have is a more informed appreciation of just how good Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse is.
There’s a lot happening on Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse. Electronica, vocal samples, screaming, moaning… a musical disjointed nightmare of sorts, particularly on the more random sounding tracks like “Stairs and Flowers,” which really does seem like a bad dream with its disjointed structure that jumps from sound to sound. There was one surprise for me here, though, and that was the musical current on “One Time One Place” that sounds exactly like Pink Floyd’s “Empty Spaces” off of The Wall. And I mean exactly.
As is generally the case for me when it comes to industrial, I prefer the songs that rely more heavily on vocal samples than those with actual singing, like the previously mentioned “Stairs and Flowers” and “200 Years.” “Dig It” takes it a step further and incorporates Gregorian chanting along with vocals into the industrial musical framework in what might be the best song on the record.
Well, I’ve checked two of the three off my list. All that remains is Locust Abortion Technician and trying to listen to the song “Kuntz” without totally freaking out. Stay tuned…