(As he explains in this review, BadWolf is not happy with the comeback album by Ministry.)
I reacted, somewhat seriously, to “Ghouldiggers,” the introductory track on Ministry’s would-be comeback album, Relapse. Partway through the song, Al Jorgenson breaks into a skit wherein he calls his manager, only to be handled by an aloof secretary—her accent lies somewhere between Sheffield and Valley Girl, her actress did not deserve whatever pay she received—and placed on hold. What is wrong with these people, Jorgenson asks, what is their major malfunction?
A Ministry song actually irked me, right there—with a skit, no less.
In my waking life I work as, among other things, a receptionist. The success of my job depends partially on how well I shield my employer from his or her own clients. I walk into a Ministry album and expect to hear about “thieves and liars.” Not petty annoyances such as myself. And yet I continued spinning “Ghouldiggers” and the tracks that follow it for a period of weeks, despite not actively liking them. What is my major malfunction?
Well, among other things, that I’m listening to a post-Filth Pig Ministry record wherein Jorgenson sings like Larry the Cable Guy. To any musicians reading this: do not write a comeback album called Relapse that relies, heavily, on an unnatural accent. It did not work for Ministry. It did not work for Eminem. It will not work for anyone.
At least this Relapse is a fascinating failure. Without the aforementioned skit, I might never have noticed.
The music itself isn’t half bad—as much as I dislike Ministry’s thrashier style, Relapse might be the best example of it. Reportedly lead guitarist Mike Scaccia led the band’s reunion for this record, and it shows, especially on the album’s aggressive highlight, “Double Tap.”
The fault rests almost entirely on Jorgenson’s shoulders. He understands that conflict runs the engine behind metal, but sounds annoyed at his worst. His stilted, near-comic delivery sucks the power from his rallying cries while his assaults, like aforementioned “Ghouldiggers”, come across as jaded.
Crusty curmudgeon works well for artists like Tom Warrior, who felt prematurely aged from the very beginning, but falls flat for bands who relied so heavily on the vibrance of youth—it cannot work for the man who wrote “So What.” Call it the James Hetfield syndrome, and Jorgenson cultivates that image for himself to the point of self-parody. The title track sprays self-loathing on the listener like so much of Gallagher’s watermelon chunks.
Gallagher made a decent living for himself by launching detritus at his audience, but I don’t see Ministry doing the same, regardless of how many times Jorgenson hypocritically compares himself to Jimi Hendrix and Amy Winehouse before complaining that people only want to watch him die. Relapse, however, feels unflinchingly—and pitifully—alive. It will be some people’s favorite Ministry record, but not mine.