Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Album Review: Skinny Puppy - "Too Dark Park" (1990)

Skinny Puppy
Too Dark Park

Now this is something. A list on an electronica website talking about this album called it "scarier than any black metal album", and I have to agree. Kind of disregarding Rabies, this album seems more to continue from the sound of VIVIsectVI, which was probably the best thing to do, because while lots of industrial bands would come to sound a lot like Rabies, nobody would be able to pin this sound down. This shit is hard.

Once again featuring the returning lineup of Ogre, Key, Goettel, and Ogilvie, the album's sound is dark and very intense. The beats are heavy, Ogre's voice is perhaps more distorted and robotic than usual, everything is hazy and decayed-sounding and it's perfect. Machines whir and buzz beneath heavily processed synth-pad sweeps and it creates a wonderful atmosphere, with waves of dissonant noise crashing against each other in such a way that everything sounds 'right' and yet it's not so harsh that it could be classified as a noise album (despite what some people with weak stomachs and no testicular fortitude will tell you). This was when basically (or even literally) the entire band was swimming in drugs and getting into the really negative effects of heroin addiction (in fact, the album was named after the local euphemism for a place in Chicago that Al Jourgensen would take Ogre to buy heroin), and I like to think of this as sort of an auditory equivalent of how they were feeling at the time.

The lyrics follow the band's left-leaning politics to a logical conclusion, presenting tracks with lyrics about environmentalism and so on in a very apocalyptic manner. This is pretty much the last time they'd be singing about that sort of thing until The Greater Wrong of the Right 14 years later, but either way it's always been a lot less obnoxious than say Ministry because Ogre's lyrics are so cryptic and abstract anyway.

An apparently rare pic of Skinny Puppy from 1990. At first it’s not what I’d have thought of as a visual representation of the band for Too Dark Park era but the more I look at it the more I like it. Too bad it’s so small.

I suppose there could be a comparison made to the previous album, in that, following the band's tradition of evolving their sound constantly, they go from Rabies' cyberpunk sound to beyond cyberpunk - into some new, otherworldly place where the electronic synth sounds and characteristic samples are emitting from beneath layers of organic material and through the fog of a panicked, alienated, drug-addled consciousness. It's a Shadowrun campaign with David Cronenberg as the DM. It's a live-action version of Akira directed by Takashi Miike. It's a trip.

This album is among my favorite of 1990 and altogether one of my favorite industrial and electronica albums. It's not hard to see why. You may not be too fond of this at first, especially if it's your first outing with Skinny Puppy or industrial in the first place, but perhaps it will grow on you, like it did with me - I never disliked it or anything, but I seem to like it more the more time passes. In fact, I think I'm gonna go listen now.