REVIEW: Ministry - "Tapes of Wrath"

By Dan Century

Chain Border

The Tapes of WrathDoes anyone remember when MTV played nothing but videos? Does anyone remember when music videos were actually fun to watch? Ministry's Tapes Of Wrath brings me back to the good old days: a time before Al Gore had invented the Internet, and before we knew there was more than one George Bush. I haven't been this excited about a music video product since the release of Wax Trax!'s Black Box videos*, and who can blame me?

Over the Shoulder, from 1996's Twitch album, marks the last time we heard Al Jourgensen sing discernable lyrics. The video is as bizarre as Jourgensen's drum machine driven music. When Al is not gliding around a supermarket (probably standing in a shopping cart) wearing a bus driver's cap he is writhing half-naked covered in eggs and flower. Way strange dude! Way low budget too, but the perfect visual partner to one of most unusual electronic albums ever pressed on wax.

Stigmata, from 1988's Land of Rape and Honey, combines the low-fi weirdness of Over the Shoulder with post apocalyptic and industrial imagery (machinery, factories, etc…), rapid fire eyeball montages, Nazi skinheads as well as every "we only have $500 to spend" camera and editing trick in the book. Al looks a helluva lot tougher, dressing like a punk-rock/biker/homeless/smack addict (yeah, I know…), and footage of Paul Barker chasing him around Chicago on a motorcycle adds even more credibility to Al's look. Stigmata, which defined the look of "industrial" videos for years to come, is a genuine mindfuck of a video still guaranteed to monopolize every eyeball in the room.

Flashback, also from Rape and Honey, features more low budget madness -- and a lot more color courtesy of creatively used X-mas lights (do you remember how everyone in the late 80's / early 90's had X-mas lights 24/7 hanging up in their living room? Okay maybe a lot of my fiends were stoners.). Due to Flashback's explicit lyrics, you'll never see this beautiful mess on MTV. And by the way, is it me or does Paul Barker look EXACTLY like Howard Stern?

The Land of Rape and Honey, is cut from Ministry's 1990ish live video In Case You Don't Feel Like Showing Up (Live)**. The footage doesn't do their stage show justice, but you do get a look at the tremendous steel hurricane fence that lined the stage during the Mind tour. See Al joined on stage by Skinny Puppy's Ogre and a thumb-sucking Jello Biafra (Green Party candidate, the singer for Lard, and Dead Kennedy's).

Jesus Built My Hot Rod was the musical exponent of Jourgensen hanging out in Austin Texas doin' dope with Butthole Surfer Gibby Hanes; it's as plain and simple as that. Who knew heavy metal dragged behind a nitro fueled funny car could be this fun? The video features plenty of stock footage of drag races, Gibby on the mike, and the rest of Ministry acting like a bunch of degenerate, unprofessional metal-head drunks (yeah, I know).

I never liked New World Odor [sic] too much because it sounds exactly like a stripped down version of Burning Inside sprinkled with George Bush Sr. samples. Nevertheless this video is hilarious (but not intentionally so). Picture Al walking down smoke-filled urban streets sporting his giant cowboy hat and Paul Barker and Mike Scaccia standing on the curb playing guitars. Funny!

Just One Fix is the greatest tribute to the Midwestern junkie ever committed to video: junk-sick kids, William S. Burroughs (need I write more?), 'tarnados' and Al nodding off at the mike. Sweet!

I'm going to skip the Lay Lady Lay video and the Reload video. If you want to see Jourgensen dressed up like Jackie Kennedy check it out. The video for Bad Blood, Ministry's best song in seven years, is a super-slick montage of medical equipment, green and red "blood," women in nurse uniforms and lots of shots of Al and Paul thrashing a mixing board. Paul no longer looks like Howard Stern.

The Revolting Cocks became Ministry's answer to both Devo and Funkadelic: a mob of intoxicated musicians having a whole lot of fun with technology and music - an aural steam valve for Ministry's deviant, intentionally tongue 'n' cheek experiments. Surprisingly The Tapes of Wrath features two Revco videos.

Crackin' Up gets my vote for the trippiest video of all time: combine early 90's 3-D computer animation (cheesy), thousands of swirling fractals (like the TV is melting, dude), Timothy Leary (yes, really) and Revco's semi-retarded brand of aggro-funk, sprinkle in some 'shrooms, maybe some dust, and you have a very sick video. Al even raps on this one. The most video fun I've had since DEVO. If someone could explain the tiny finger microphone to me please do; at first I thought it was a coke spoon, but I'm not sure.

Revco's video for Do Ya think I'm Sexy might send Rod Steward gagging all the way to the hospital, but it has me hitting the rewind button again and again. Imagine Ministry in a strip bar where the strippers turn into blood thirsty zombies, imagine Al Jourgensen's head on a beautiful stripper's body, imagine sultry devil women in bikinis, imagine women in bikinis shooting machine guns, imagine the Intel "Bunnyman" torched by a flamethrower!!!!!

Overall…
I ran the sound out through my stereo and it sounds phenomenal - every bit as good as the CDs if not better, and without a doubt better than an mp3 played through your PC speakers. The packaging is the standard cardboard DVD case with the flimsy plastic snap closure. I realize not that many people care about Ministry anymore, but for us old-timers the Tapes of Wrath is a real treat, and it makes me actually look forward to Ministry's work on the soundtrack for Spielberg's upcoming film A.I.***

Buy The Album
Buy Tapes of Wrath

* A must for Wax Trax! fans. See the greatest video ever made: Laibach's Life is Life. Unfortunately, the Black Box videos aren't available on DVD.
** By the way, thanks for the cassette tape Pan!
*** Which Stanley "Clockwork Orange" Kubrick was going to make, had he not died.

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