Recordings

Ministry
Filth Pig
(Warner Bros.)

Like a piece of heavy machinery commandeered by a speed freak, the Ministry juggernaut rolls into its 15th year, bestowing a kind of classic-rock status upon the synth-pop Euro poseurs turned foremen of the Chicago industrial scene.

With several cuts on the new album clocking in at six minutes plus, however, head mechanic Al Jourgensen is clearly not courting FM radio. Listening to the ponderous, riff-heavy explorations of the abyss on Filth Pig, one gets the impression that Jourgensen isn't protesting the decline of America so much as he wants to help pull down the sky and turn out the lights once and for all.

Created in a haunted warehouse 50 miles outside Austin, Texas, Pig isn't pretty, but it represents Ministry's best sustained work yet. Essentially the same crew that hammered together the platinum-selling Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs in 1992 reconvened to produce this soundtrack to the coming darkness. On "Lava" and "Crumbs," the guitar and drums roar and crash like titanic, ugly animals mating with great violence. Jourgensen and Ministry co-founder Paul Barker bellow and growl over the noise, their voices strangled by the band's trademark vocal distortion. The archetypal industrial sound effect of glass shattering on "Reload" isn't half as sharp as the Rapemanesque guitar slashing madly into 4/4 time, and whenever Jourgensen tries his luck with the harmonica, the result sounds like the howl of a sentient train headed off a cliff.

With various side projects such as Revolting Cocks, Pailhead and Lard, Jourgensen has consistently and vehemently railed against religious fundamentalism and media manipulation (the cover art for Revco's You Goddamned Son of a Bitch must still give Vanna White nightmares). The source of the fury in Ministry's brutal sonic assault clearly lies with its perpetually seething front man, a guy who reportedly blasts spiders off his wall with a shotgun. Al Jourgensen plays the angry, demented iconoclast to a T.

Problem is, that's the only role he knows.
Ministry's expressive possibilities are confined to the range of emotions conjured by the metallic thrash they so excel at, and Jourgensen's poetic world is entirely subterranean. He hardly ever comes out of his den. None of which truly detracts from Filth Pig's marvelous clatter. This album lives up to its bill as dangerous, subversive stuff. For now, at least.

Given the pop public's growing propensity for quick boredom with consistency, Jourgensen, et al., may want to ask themselves how long they can keep scaring the kids with the same mask before they lapse into self-parody. For the moment, however, Jourgensen still doesn't need his shotgun to get people to listen (if you see him armed and coming, though, you might want to duck nonetheless).--Matt Golosinski

Jack Logan
Mood Elevator
(Medium Cool/Restless)

Though you've probably never heard it, Jack Logan's 1994 debut Bulk stands as a triumph of naive folk art. A 42-track, two-hour double CD, Bulk represented the best of some 600 songs Logan wrote and crudely recorded over a 15-year period he spent in rural Georgia working as a swimming-pool repairman. It was an honest, powerful rock recording that was never intended to be heard beyond the laborer's small circle of friends. The music on it had an economy and precision that relayed everyday moments full of extraordinary character and complexity. Critics squealed with glee: The next Daniel Johnston had been found!

Of course Mood Elevator, Logan's first postdiscovery release, could never be as pristine as Bulk. Logan is now a viable alternative up-and-comer with piles of press clips, national tours and access to professional recording equipment. But while Mood Elevator stands quite plainly as the work of an earnest Paul Westerberg-type songwriter and his band, it nevertheless stands proud and tall. With an entirely conventional rock structure of guitar, piano, bass and drums, Logan's new material succeeds on its subtle melodies and hearty accompaniment. Songs work at first on a quite literal level--"What Was Burned" is about valuables lost in a fire, "Unscathed" about surviving a car wreck--but then deepen as metaphors for a soul in pain. With Mood Elevator, Logan has ably launched his recording career, and seems out to escape anonymity.--Roni Sarig

Kris Kross
Young, Rich and Dangerous
(Columbia)

Dupri, or not Dupri? Well, here's the real question: Can producer Jermaine Dupri--riding high on the charts with the success of his projects TLC and Da Brat--score a few more hits with this third album from the underage hip-hop duo Kris Kross (a.k.a. Chris Kelly and Chris Smith, a.k.a., respectively, "Mack Daddy" and "Daddy Mack")?

Dupri's first successful experiment in commercial starmaking, Kelly and Smith were 14 years old in 1992, when Kris Kross sold four million albums--primarily on the strength of one single ("Jump"). Now, as Dupri and his proteges try totranscend the limitations of childhood stardom, their latest effort does little more than reestablish Chris and Chris asa heartless product of mass marketing.

Like the first two Kris Kross albums, Young, Rich and Dangerous was musically and lyrically composed by Dupri. The producer absorbs hip-hop's current formulas like a chamois, wringing out the sounds of GFunk, the Notorious B.I.G., and Outkasts. Desperately seeking soothin' bass lines and slick beats, he creates an utterly commercial sound. "Tonite's Tha Night," the album's single and (of course) best cut, serves as the perfect backdrop for the unveiling of Kris Kross' new image (surprise--the Atlanta rappers have gone from boy wonders to true players) and lyrical delivery.

Chris and Chris do show considerable improvement in verbal execution. Too bad it's not original. Like Da Brat, it's obvious that Kris Kross has been Snooping around for a style. The two slip even further into the current of conformity by borrowing heavily from Biggie Smalls on "Da Streets Ain't Right," a poor excuse to rip off Big Papa's well-known flavor.

Young's title track is actually enhanced by a convincing reply in the chorus from DaBrat. But then, as if to take two steps back, "Live and Die for Hip-Hop" badly misses the mark. This slow bump and grind would be more aptly titled "Live and Die for Pop R&B." Da Brat puts in another guest appearance, but this time sounds misplaced as she delivers a ruff-neck rhyme over the song's luscious, laid-back loop. One has to wonder if Dupri sacrificed the quality of the song simply to promote another of his artists here.

As born-again players, Kelly and Smith are eager to publicize how hard they are--thus the meaning behind "Dangerous" in this album's title ("Young" and "Rich" require no explanation). Dupri even turns over songwriting and production credits to the pair on "Hey Sexy" and "Money, Power and Fame." Unfortunately, the two cuts are just plain wickety-wack.

Out of the 12 tracks listed for Young, Rich and Dangerous, only eight are actual, complete songs. The rest of the 30-minute CD is made up of one tepid remix of "Tonite's Tha Night" (this time utilizing Dr. Dre's voice) and three contrived sketches--all part of the aforementioned true player campaign. "We just feel like we got more knowledge than a lotta people in the business right now," Smith offers in one played-out "interview" segment.

Yeah, right.
The two other sketches create a player's party ambiance, complete with lightly misogynistic dialogue, which falls flatter than the preteen girls Kris Kross is supposedly trying to seduce. Kelly and Smith may be old enough to drive now, but they still can't buy a 40-ounce bottle of beer, and they sure as hell can't buy respect.--P-Body Scott

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