Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel - Hole
J.G. Thirlwell is not a household name by any means, but if you live in garbage laden flat rented out to a group of people who spend their time smoking crack and listening to industrial groups like Swans, Einstürzende Neubauten & Laibach chances are he would be. No doubt slipping under the radar for many, the man sometimes known as Clint Ruin and Frank Want has built up quite a cult following as one of the most prolific background figures in the music business; a notable contributor, producer and remixer (having worked with Nine Inch Nails, Marc Almond, Front 242, Nick Cave, The The, Roli Mosimann, Thurston Moore, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Raymond Watts, Marilyn Manson and more) owing most of his popularity to his primary musical act, Foetus.
Cycling through several monikers over the years all involving that particular word (Foetus Interruptus, You've Got Foetus On Your Breath, Foetus Corruptus) since 1981 J.G. has concocted some of the most difficult to categorise genre-bending experiments ever put to tape, mostly centered around the abrasive sampling and drum machines typical of industrial. Early albums Deaf
were raw, experimental efforts that sounded like the bastard child of electronica pioneers Perrey-Kingsley and God Ween Satan
era Ween, a manic, confused mashing of musique concrète, new wave, funk, and noise ideas which lacked focus but made up for it with sheer raw insanity. Whilst third album Hole
(released under Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel) is a much more refined effort, for the most part it is no less engaging for those of us with ADD.
Opening track Clothes Hoist
is a frenetic bastard of a thing with many multilayered tracks of percussion, a swinging psychobilly hook to J.G's vocals and an explosion of distorted textures bringing to mind a chaotic B-grade horror movie extravaganza. It's a fun song on it's own merits, but when listened to through headphones an impressive field of sound is revealed with the sheer number of parts at work somewhat awe inspiring. Lust For Death
has a Mr. Bungle before there was Mr. Bungle vibe in it's cheesy organs, rumbling double bass, cheap trumpet stabs and upbeat ostinatos using sounds sourced from god-knows where; the wild man howl of the man behind it all riding high on the madness eventually gelling after a few listens into a downright entertaining piece of music.
I'll Meet You In Poland Baby
is unique to say the least, an A Cappella intro with meticulously timed delay effects providing an odd but ultimately satisfying arrangement as J.G. namedrops Stalin and The Versailles Treaty in a declaration of war (See you at your graveside baby, i'll meet you in Poland baby!
). Incorporating a Nazi march "stomp" as the backbeat is an intuitive move, samples of German rallies and sirens in the distance contributing to a military wartime feel whilst the added nuances of percussion and the strange vocal hooks make it a very distinct song.
Unfortunately the rest of the album is somewhat mediocre in comparison. Street of Shame
& Satan Place
have a similar feel to them for the most part, the former beginning with a hell of a catchy lyrical swing over some tappity-tap snare work, clicking fingers and thundering toms. Both have a surf rock feel to the rhythm section and a simple melody driving it, Satan Place
featuring vocal harmonies in spades. White Knuckles
and Cold Day in Hell
are a pair of slower, drawn out compositions, with a little bit of patience rewarding in terms of the nicely layered subtleties which runs constant throughout this album but still not as fun or interesting as anything else present.
The two worst songs here are Hot Horse
& Sick Man
, possibly because both are in the vein of parody. Hot Horse
utilizes a bizarrely timed drum pattern which takes a long moment to click, with the lyrics a drawled parody of redneck life to some dissonant guitars whilst Sick Man
is a parody of the melodramatic vocal style and lyrics of Nick Cave (a musician J.G. knew from way back in the days of the "little band" post-punk scene in Melbourne, Australia in the early 80's). Neither are particularly appealing as the vocals can be grating, however the musical compositions themselves are tolerable enough with some sections that are actually rather great just out of place in the context of a poor song.
is an inconsistent album in many ways, however where it works it is a captivating listen. There is a manic energy to it at it's best, with a lot of density to the compositions which makes for an excellent listen through a pair of nice headphones (and some weed never hurt either). A few of the songs are subpar as a whole, but they all have their good aspects in one way or another. There is absolutely no other music on the planet quite like what J.G. Thirlwell has unleashed with Foetus, and whilst there may be better albums to start with Hole
is more then enough to spark interest in investigating the pioneering industrial artist.