Review Summary: A fun country rock side project of Ministry.
Buck Satan has been a footnote in music history for over two decades. Ministry
's Al Jourgensen first performed under the Buck Satan alias in the short-lived 1000 Homo DJs
project, and for years he teased fans with the promise that Buck would return as the star of Jourgensen's first country music release. When it was announced that the debut Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters CD was finally on the way, my anticipation was mixed with just a touch of trepidation. Speaking as a fairly typical altenative/industrial rock guy whose interest in country began and ended with hearing Puscifer
sing "Cuntry Boner" (a song Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters should totally cover, by the way), would the connection to Uncle Al's other projects be enough for me to get into this?
In short, yes. For one thing, this is more of a country rock release, recruiting an eclectic lineup of Jourgensen's rocker friends including electric guitarists Mike Scaccia (Rigor Mortis
) and Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick
) and bassist Tony Campos (Static-X
) in addition to the fiddle and cello players. Jourgensen's lead vocals include both his new style of country-influenced signing and his signature processed Ministry growl, which works well as a way of adding diversity and familiarity to the new project. The rinkydink drum machine tracks that I complained about on the recent Ministry and Revolting Cocks
albums actually work here, building an appropriate sort of chintzy dive bar atmosphere. The giddy exaggerated speed at which they play many of the songs (compare the covers to their originals) is automatically kind of funny, and the looping spaghetti western blooms of "Medication Nation" honestly aren't that far from what Jourgensen was doing in his electronic dance days. Even questionably kitschy idiosyncracies like having a voiceover announce almost every guitar solo could be taken as a tribute to what country music happens to sound like if you listen to a lot of it while doing psychedelics on a Ministry tour bus.
But on top of all that, Bikers Welcome Ladies Drink Free
sounds like a genuine and heartfelt album. Jourgensen didn't create a country rock project to be ironic or weird or to sell out, he did it because he wanted to put his own spin on the music he loves. There's some fantastic musicianship on display here from the 666 Shooters, that is enjoyable to listen to even without a deep appreciation of the genre. It also helps that despite having a song on this album called "I Hate Every Bone In Your Body Except Mine," they keep their distance from the juvenile gross-out shock rock attempts that made recent RevCo such a bore. For a quasi-ficticous character with a name like Buck Satan, Buck's a fairly humble, down-to-earth guy, singing believable songs about his money troubles, drinking troubles, and woman troubles. "What's Wrong With Me," with surprisingly serious lyrics about feeling too outcast to go outside, is one of my favourite examples of Jourgensen as a songwriter. And that guitar solo towards the end of it? F***in' beautiful, man.
Personally, I was impressed. Being as familiar as I am with the previous thirty years of Jourgensen's rock career probably helps, since I'm always interested to see where he goes next in that context, and there is a fun novelty factor in hearing a former industrial musician doing country, of all things. I have no idea what impression this album would make on a country fanatic who has never heard an Al Jourgensen band before, but if you're already into Ministry this side project is definitely worth checking out.