Born Annoying

Mindless Self Indulgence lives to antagonize its audience. You got a problem with that?

MSI couldn't make this photo shoot, but with the help - of these form-fitting masks, no one could tell the - difference.
MSI couldn't make this photo shoot, but with the help of these form-fitting masks, no one could tell the difference.

"You guys, man, you've gotta get organized," Jimmy Urine, lead singer of Mindless Self Indulgence, says scornfully, chiding an unruly and mostly hostile audience. "When I say, 'We,' you say, 'Suck.'" After following through with this call-and-response several times, Urine tags "Dick" on the end of the exchange.

That concert snippet, an accurate portrait of MSI's rapport with its crowds, opens Frankenstein Girls Will Seem Strangely Sexy, the group's mysteriously ignored 2000 album. In addition to being an intoxicating mix of swaggering gangsta-rap bravado, hyperactive dance beats, and quivering upper-octave vocals, Frankenstein Girls pushed all the buttons that regularly get the P.M.R.C. in a lather.

Take "Backmask," the record's first song: It urges listeners to kill themselves, in no uncertain terms. The next number -- driven by a devastating breakbeat, a sample of Siouxsie & the Banshees' "Happy House," and the boast "Bitches love me . . . throughout the projects" -- offends on an impressive number of levels. Later, MSI wraps a pulsing bass throb around the refrain "Faggot, faggot, faggot" and crafts an indelicate Mother's Day paean ("I love my mommy 'cause she fucked my dad"). Yet the moral-watchdog community, which has blown gaskets at much, much less, has failed to attach its "Won't someone please think of the children?" rhetoric (and subsequent free publicity) to Frankenstein Girls, even as the group played to thousands of impressionable young people while touring with Insane Clown Posse and Korn.

Ironically, one track on the album did cause a major stir -- but the uproar came from air-guitar-addicted classic rock fans, not parental-advisory-sticker sticklers. "I Hate Jimmy Page," an attack on conventional musicianship, outraged countless Ledheads.

"If you want to get away with murder, just say you hate Jimmy Page somewhere on your record," advises guitarist Steve Righ? (Righ? also has a bone to pick with contemporary party-starter Pink, bitching that she stole his in-name punctuation shtick.) "If I could go back in time, I'd tell [Judas Priest's Rob] Halford and Ozzy [Osbourne], 'Say you hate Jimmy Page, and you won't get in trouble for that backward shit.'"

"There's like a hundred hidden messages on Frankenstein Girls, and everyone went right to the Jimmy Page," Urine adds. "They'd say, 'Why are you attacking that old Chinese broad?' 'Because he played guitar.' 'Oh, that's horrible; you're bad people.'"

Mindless Self Indulgence's disdain for traditional instrumental acumen is real, reflected by its embrace of looped beats, programmed drums, and atonal vocals. But much of the venom on Frankenstein Girls is satirical, a fact telegraphed by the group's use of Lenny Bruce's quote "It's the suppression of the word that gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness" on its back cover, as well as a liner-notes disclaimer that reads, in part: "If you don't have a sense of irony, or you are a piece of shit bigot . . . return this album immediately."

Other envelope-pushers, from Anal Cunt to Eminem, have unconvincingly downplayed the hatefulness of their content, but Mindless Self Indulgence actually seems to deserve a pass. For one thing, the "bitches" talk seems like more of a parody of macho rap-metal than evidence of a misogynist viewpoint, given that the band boasts an all-female rhythm section, with Kitty on drums and Lyn-Z on bass. And for another, its members aren't afraid of being coy about their sexuality -- something that lyrical gay-basher Slim Shady would never do, all Elton John-hugging aside.

"He's actually gay," Urine says of Righ?, who has been daydreaming about "honeys" and says, "I'll get in trouble with the gods of chastity, because there are so many honeys in and out of my urethra." But Righ? agrees with Urine's assessment of his sexuality, adding, "I'm trying really hard to have a new image."

"They say gay's not good," Urine continues. "It didn't work for Halford."

"See, if you're hard and then you go gay, it doesn't work. But if you're gay and then you go hard, it works," Righ? concludes. "Pussy," he shouts, trying it out. "See?"

Because of such ambiguity, "Faggot," MSI's playful ode to "all the best ultra-sex," carries a very different tone from Korn's confrontational "Faget." Fans were free to compare and contrast the two at the bands' shared shows, though Urine doubts that any did so. "Do Korn fans even know what a tonal difference is?" he wonders. "We got called 'faggot' a lot on the Korn tour. That's probably the biggest difference between our 'Faggot' and theirs."

Mindless Self Indulgence received similarly brutal receptions at most of its opening-act shows with Korn and Insane Clown Posse, a phenomenon that Righ? and Urine sarcastically attribute to the efforts of hired help. "They're all plants," Righ? reveals. "Everybody loves us, but we just pay people at the door to heckle us."

On the surface, MSI's stints on the road with Korn and ICP seem like masochistic exercises -- that is, until you get the feeling that the band loves toying with these angry yet inarticulate throngs. "They were ravenous and very hateful, and that's good, because it makes it more interesting," Urine says. "I've pissed off more people than anybody I know. We go up there and piss off 10,000 people at once."

It's not so much the music that incenses the audiences; MSI's crushing jungle beats, metal riffs, and plentiful profanity are made to order for mosh-pit regulars. Instead, it's the performance-art element of the show, the fact that Mindless Self Indulgence isn't afraid to admit that -- horror of horrors -- it isn't actually playing all its parts live on stage.

"Yo, it's punk-rock Milli Vanilli; we put in the cassette and push 'play,'" Urine says. "What does the audience want, Stabbing Westward, with 20 keyboardists up there standing still? No. Fuck that. We're bored, and we have to entertain ourselves. If you're along for the ride, hold on tight, baby, because I'm going to take you for a carpet ride."