Industrial music madman J.G. Thirlwell has been noted for helping to shape the genre throughout the 80's through his extensive work as producer, remixer and collaborator, his output with solo act Foetus producing at least two albums which are considered essential and groundbreaking, 1984's Hole
and 1985's Nail
. Both of these albums warped the notoriously morose genre of industrial music into something much more playful and entertaining, borrowing heavily from post-punk and several other genres of music to create something that absolutely does not withstand the deconstruction of the sum of its parts to such easy classifications of genre. It's all in a days work for this guy however, and if 1988's Thaw
is anything to go by the man could very well go an unappreciated genius in his lifetime to be unfortunately overshadowed by such one man industrial innovators as Trent Reznor.
Previous album Nail
is often seen as the magnum opus
of Foetus, and to discuss Thaw
in proper context you would have to refer to the production of Nail
first. It is the mid 80's, and exceptionally strong production qualities for electronic based music do not exist yet. Some might even call this era dated, which to me is an unfair stretch as analogue electronics filtered through archaic production certainly have their own aesthetic quality which stand up today as unique and "of the era". This is how Nail
feels, with its warped rock structures, intricate metallic percussion, noise loops, distorted synths and modern classical arrangements the whole album has a sense of being calculated, precise, every moment feeling programmed and premeditated.
In comparison, Thaw
is a throbbing, organic nightmare.
Nothing would have sounded like Thaw
in 1988, and in a way nothing sounds quite like Thaw
today. Comparing Thaw
against other industrial albums such as Ministry's The Land of Rape and Honey
and Front 242's Front By Front
which were released the same year the production on these albums sound flat in comparison, and rightly so. J.G. was truly ahead of his time in terms of production and his influence was immeasurable, Thaw
testament to the fact.
If there is one way that would help to describe the general feel of this album, irreverent pop music driven by harsh noise might be almost adequate. Never before has an album filled with such hooks ended up this chaotic and noisy, tracks such as Don't Hide It, Provide It
, English Faggot/Nothin Man
managing to find a perfect balance between being abrasive and harboring perfectly constructed pop sensibilities. Don't Hide It, Provide It
begins with machinery sounds, a brass section and a slide whistle (!), settling into a groovy drum beat accentuated by the cracking of a whip at the end of each bar. J.G's vocals are catchy as *** and are affected with plenty of distortion, introducing the lyrical content of the album which seems to be a parody of misanthropy and hatred in all its forms (If you don't stop hounding me/I'm gonna start pounding thee!/You're aching for a breaking/Some say i'm the rape man!
) whilst layered noise and samples of gunfire wrap around everything to create something which could possibly be described as mutant disco. It manages to be enthralling, hilarious and disturbing all at once which is something that rarely lets up for the entire duration of Thaw
. English Faggot/Nothin' Man
follows a similar line, describing life through the eyes of a stalker (I've seen you around/I've been in your home/I've decided to take a peek through your keyhole
) building up from a quiet intro peppered with subtle horn instrumentation and a drawling lyrical delivery using stabs of noise to gradually build dynamics into something much more intense and disturbing (Squeal like a pig!
). Needless to say it is one unsettling track and i'll leave the old imagination to fill in the gaps.
is where the majesty of the pop side of Thaw
truly reveals itself, J.G. screaming "The house is on fire!!!!!!
" the best kind of intro. The following sections led by handclaps and a repeated backing chorus of "Boing Boing Boing
" are nothing short of infectious, powered by thundering tom-toms, noisy electronics, tabla, and more whip cracks the vocal delivery is perfectly suited to this ridiculously catchy track. The Dipsomaniac Kiss
is a moody, cartoonish affair built around a simple, downtempo piano melody that recalls Tom Waits if he were a little more psychotic, with some lyrics that feature a nicely homicidal touch (I've got a license to kill and an electric drill/Now is the time that time stands still
). Much like English Faggot/Nothin' Man
it builds in intensity from a soft beginning, then fades in and out at will. ¡Chingada!
(which is allegedly Spanish for mother***er, or more broadly a general term related to ***) takes on blending the styles of Indian classical music with guitars and distorted noise, a parody of a spanish accent and spanish lyrics screamed over the top of this cacophonous din. Like much of the album it is difficult to describe, but completely thrilling all the same. Closer A Prayer For My Death
is the most straightforward rock structured track here, but leaves the album on a note of completely denouncing the human race and all its failures. Yikes. As i've mentioned, there is a very strong theme of misanthropy and hatred running throughout Thaw
and this is the culmination of it. Whilst this covers the lyrical centered songs here, we are left with three classical ambient noise tracks and a blast of unsettling screams, distortion, breaking glass and gunfire known as Fin
, Fratricide Pastorale
and Barbedwire Tumbleweed
may appear to be mere filler at first, but upon closer inspection all three are superbly unnerving, moving pieces which are truly understated in their ambitiousness. They are perfectly constructed and contribute a lot to an already exceptional album.
Much of Thaw
beats with a vicious heart, its superb production lending an unparalleled clarity to its chaotic arrangements. J.G. Thirlwell might not be the most recognised figure in music and Thaw
might not be J.G. Thirlwell's most recognised album, but it is a truly unique work which stands as in its own right as a virtually unknown masterpiece which was quite ahead of its time. Thaw
is a noisy, abrasive pisstake of all the misery and hatred we humans hold for one another as a race, bold in organic sound and rich in musical subtlety. Thaw
also happens to be an awful lot of noisy fun, in a disturbing kind of way.