Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Album Review: Foetus - "Thaw" (1988)


If you're uninitiated to Foetus, then I'll go ahead and get this out of the way, this abbreviated history... J.G. Thirlwell is a psychotic Aussie who came to New York in the early 80's, showed his cock in some movies, and joined the 'no-wave' scene, alongside other artists such as Sonic Youth, Swans, and Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, but rather than forming a band or sounding like anything they were doing, shacked up by himself and recorded some of the most varied, insane, and soulfully frenzied music to ever grace the industrial genre, or music period. He named this one-man project about a million different things, changing every other LP or single, but always containing the word 'Foetus' (ex. You've Got Foetus on Your Breath; Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel; etc.). Since the 90's, all of it has been accepted as simply 'Foetus'. Foetus has been a big influence on many other artists, such as Nine Inch Nails, Mike Patton, and the Melvins. His music is... very weird. So just take things as they come.

Thaw, Thirlwell's fifth LP under his 'Foetus' project, kind of continues where its predecessor, Nail, left off... A slightly more rock-oriented sound than the previous stuff. Now, there's a reason that this clashes with Deaf and Nail for spot as my favorite Foetus album. It's extremely cohesive and keeps a common mood and theme, and it's extremely well-produced... I think of this as the heaviest Foetus album because the production has such a punch to it.

The first track, "Don't Hide It Provide It" springs an aggressive and heavy track on us right out the gate (and I still consider it one of my favorite Foetus songs). Jim's strange wailing had become a very harsh, extremely gravelly Nivek Ogre-style rasp. It's impressive how much it sounds like it must hurt his throat.
Another highlight is "Asbestos", a retro-sounding horror score type deal with strings and creepy synths that sounds like a thoroughly disturbing collaboration between Wendy Carlos and Goblin. Another Foetus favorite.
"Fin" is like an industrial grindcore track, perhaps an early appearance of powerviolence?
"English Faggot/Nothin' Man" is another great, and one of several tracks on the album that showcase Jim at his most Waits, or at his Beefheartiest.... Groaning film noir prose spoken-word over weird experimental jazzy music.


You know what this album makes me think of? Along with its supremely badass cover art (seriously, check that fly shit out), the aggressively 'masculine' feel of the music and lyrics (it sounds like a twisted parody of an action movie half the time) and the tendency to borrow musical and lyrical themes from noir, horror, and action-adventure films makes me vividly imagine some kind of twisted pulp magazine, like a Johnny Quest comic written by Mike Diana. Closest thing I can think of to it would be the Venture Bros., so it's probably no coincidence that Thirlwell is composing the music on that show.

I love this album so much. It has the most 'favorites' of any Foetus album for me, and I feel fully realizes the 'sound' of the project for me more than the others... It has the best combination of the strange Beefheart-style experimentation, film score-style compositions, industrial aggression, and manic structure-bending that all make Foetus great. This one, as I mentioned earlier, also has one of my most favorite 'sounds' of all of his albums. The horns, the percussion (ranging from heavy metallic banging to world rhythms and big-band drumming), the sinister bass, the nervously pinging synths, and Thirlwell's wacky, flexible voice all mesh perfectly here. And the lyrics... They're memorable, I'll say that. All that adds up to this being, in my mind, an absolutely essential industrial album. I'd also say this one is probably a great entrance point if you want to get into Foetus. Do yourself a favor!


1 comment:

  1. Well it took me close to 10 years- but I finally found my favorite album from the 80's. Indeed this may be one of the best things I've accidentally listened to.