Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Who's the Sucker Now?

Yesterday I had the pleasure (so to speak) of getting a promo copy of Cover Up, Ministry's real swan song record (The Last Sucker not withstanding, apparently). Enclosed was a lengthy, rambling press release stating the record's raison d'etre through the faux-cool language PR people always seem to use when promoing a record: dancing around the edge of hyperbole, chock full of disconnected adjectives, etc. Seems that Dr. Alien Jourgensen decided that going out on a Bush-hating no fun bang wasn't good for his image, so he and Burton C. Bell and various members of the Revolting Cocks and Ministry and anyone else who was around decided they'd record all of the songs that motivated them to kick ass when they were kids. Since "when they were kids" means the late 60s and early 70s, the selections are from the same time period, and include some previous releases ("Supernaut" was on the first Black Sabbath tribute CD, and "Roadhouse Blues" came from The Last Sucker, because releasing the same song on two different albums less than a year apart is a great idea).

As you can probably tell from the hints in the previous paragraph, I'm not a big fan of this record, and my ire goes beyond Jourgensen stealing the name I used for a mix CD of covers I made about seven years ago (although he took cover up in the conspiracy context, using a pre-assassination picture of JFK, and I took it in a porn context, Photoshopping black boxes on a Playboy playmate). If you've been following along, you've probably guessed the reason: Ministry is an industrial band, and the songs he chose are about as straight up rock as you can get. Now, I have no problem with some genre-bending cover action; I think it takes real talent to remake a song in a totally different image and still have the result make sense to those who know the original (see Queensryche - Take Cover for a good example). But Ministry's covers don't innovate, they destroy.

Take "Black Betty," for example. The original song rocks because the solo guitar riff (especially the breaks in the solo guitar riff) grabs your attention. It's the definition of a hook. Ministry's cover of "Black Betty," however, tosses in an electronic double bass line in the background, cutting the power of the hook in half. The rest of the songs - the ones I could stomach listening to, anyway - have similar issues, all coming back to the same basic problem: these covers lack the grit that makes the originals so good. These aren't songs you wash up and take home to Mom; they're balls-out rockers that smoke, drink, and curse their way through three minutes and thirty seconds, and polishing them up - even as you try and make them kick ass in a very modern way - just makes 'em lame. And in the end, that's Cover Up in a word: lame.

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