Industrial music emerged in the mid-'70s thanks to Industrial Records' Genesis P-Orridge and his band, Throbbing Gristle, who marketed gratuitous amounts of confrontation in an attempt to keep the movement from being co-opted, almost inevitably commercializing the anti-commercial (much as punk did).
Over the past 30 years, industrial and its cousin, goth, have crossbred into a multitude of mecho-organic assemblages, several of which arrive this week, in an onslaught of gated drums, chest-caving bass, and horror-movie synth lines. With theatrical frontmen, goth-industrial is shaping up to be the '70s revival of the new millennium, which we extrapolate below to its logical commercial end.
Like the little vampires they long to be, goths have been siphoning off the mystique of Bauhaus since the British band formed in 1978. Named for a minimalist style of German architecture, Bauhaus proved at times equally spare and bleak, even while inspired by glam and Krautrock, among other things. Making music jagged and detached, singer Peter Murphy and company helped make black the new black for generations to come, before fissures within the group caused Bauhaus' dissolution in 1983. Since then, the Bauhaus iconography -- much like that of Joy Division -- has filtered down, though the name was previously dragged out again only for a 1998 "Resurrection Tour" and a contribution to the Heavy Metal 2000 soundtrack. With new songs already in the set list this year, however, Bauhaus appears to have risen from the dead to lead a true "Endless Summer of the Damned," as one of the new songs puts it.
Several years down the road, after obtaining a lightly used time machine advertised on Craigslist from a Mr. U. Rico in Preston, Idaho, Bauhaus frontman Peter Murphy will travel to the future and purchases a sports-betting almanac, which he will give to an ancestor. Returning to his own time, Murphy finds himself in possession of vast resources, which he uses to develop a space-age polymer that -- used to make impervious but malleable blacker-than-black capes -- revolutionizes men's sportswear.
Later, Murphy founds an annual traveling festival, "Hauses of the Unholy," that features headliners (or is that "deadliners"?) Bauhaus previously wheeled onstage to vamp through hits year after year. Surprise hits on the midway include the Piercing-Go-Round and cobweb funnel cakes.
Al Jourgensen -- the Keith Richards of industrial music, a walking testament to the preservative effect of chemical abuse -- has admitted that early '80s synth-pop-turned-jackhammer industrial-metal band Ministry is a relatively simple formula. Take guitar-bass-drums, add keyboards and samples of mental clamor, corrode it all in bile -- and voilà. Like a good factory worker, the straight-talking, agenda-fueled Jourgensen has been churning out album after anticonservative album of late. Over the years, the one-time roommate of Timothy Leary and needle buddy of William Burroughs who got clean a couple years ago, has delivered a wealth of drug proverbs worthy of fortune cookies, such as "It's important to know the difference between being a drug user and a used druggie."
Jourgensen also participates in the band Revolting Cocks, with a revolving cast of Belgians and characters who've worked with Chicago's infamous Wax Trax! Records. In light of albums like Cocked & Loaded, and songs like "Prune Tang," it's not difficult to recognize the nihilistic indulgence of Revolting Cocks as the id to Ministry's ego (and parallel to My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult).
When the shock value diminishes to nothing, Revolting Cocks will license their name to a soccer franchise. Merchandising will eventually result in a series of successful children's films, much like The Bad News Bears and The Mighty Ducks. Kids will line up around the block to see what zany adventures those precocious Cocks worm their way out of next.
Al Jourgensen's fate, meanwhile, parallels the ending of Terry Gilliam's 1985 dystopic retro-futuristic tale Brazil. In the quest to find more and more political rhetoric to mince and reconstitute as anticonservative samples, Jourgensen opts to have his body julienned and merged with newly developed carbonetic circuitry to create a mecho-organic receiver. Nourished through a tangled lattice of red-wine IVs and assisted by a universal translator embedded in his cortex, Jourgensen -- or "Jargonsen," as his program becomes known -- absorbs an unending barrage of phrasing.
Only a fragile inhibitor chip -- possibly susceptible to unexpected electromagnetic flux -- prohibits Jourgensen's idiom-addled mind from reverse broadcasting and commanding a mechanical army to institute aggressively antifascist (and therefore oppressively fascist) "Nu_Speak."
Nine Inch Nails
Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor is the pop-friendly gateway drug for clove smokers who have yet to get any coldwave-darkwave-EBM-cybergoth samplers with their Urban Decay nail polish. He's smelted together everything from the aforementioned bands -- the distorted loops, the abrasive polemics, the saturated, shifting identity and visuals of Bowie, etc., the marriage of menace and elegance -- and forged an industrial industry with multiple platinum-album sales, videogame scores, movie scores, and sold-out tours.
Reznor has succeeded most in infusing graphic, blasphemous content with an almost religious sense of romanticism.
Eventually, Reznor will realize that his fans -- now in their upwardly mobile 30s -- demand more from a home listening experience. Since he plans to release and rerelease albums in Super Audio, DVD-Audio, BluRay, HD-DVD, and whatever else comes down the pike (he's nothing if not a whore for technology), Reznor turns to another form of industrial design to develop and market a line of sensible, stainless-steel-meets-crepuscular-velvet furniture -- IKEA with an edge -- which he dubs "Meatlocker." The tagline is "Get Hooked on Fine Furnishings."
The line includes specially designed first-person fragging consoles for Goth gamers and is wholly pet-friendly, in case any family members, human or otherwise, want to fuck like an animal while listening to Reznor wheeze in hi-definition. Peter Murphy contributes the design for a limited-edition chaise longue, later christened "The Feignting Couch" as a dig at the mallgoths, who snatch up the first run. Built-in absinthe cooler is optional.
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