For many fans of heavy music, it just doesn’t get better than Ministry.
The guitars, samples, and heavy percussion — along with the screamy, sneering vocal delivery of a guy who may be the first cousin of Satan himself — have made Ministry one of the greatest underground musical exports from Chicago.
For this fan, January 31, 1990, was the true game changer. That’s when Ministry played the Americana Ballroom in Phoenix and totally destroyed the place. Chain link fence was set up in front of 75 percent of the stage, and Al Jourgensen was the ringleader of evil for the night.
That’ll likely be the case again on Tuesday, November 7, when Ministry play on Van Buren Road yet again. This time it’s at The Van Buren, and Death Grips is opening.
In the 27 years since Ministry’s Americana Ballroom show, a lot has happened with Jourgensen and company, even if there haven’t been many remarkable records. But the good Ministry stuff is good enough to transcend many of the less-than-memorable records that have happened in the meantime. And really, 1996’s Filth Pig had some really fun moments.
Hell, if you like Ministry, you probably like all of their records, even if recent releases mostly have been box sets and “best of” compilations.
The formula hasn’t changed much in the past 30 years, but here are 10 reasons why you should still love Ministry.
1. While they aren’t technically Ministry, the side projects always kick ass. Jourgensen has great taste for collaborations, and some of the more influential frontmen in punk rock history have gotten their rock on with Al and crew on some killer records. Check out Lard, his great team-up with longtime Ministry sideman Paul Barker and Guantanamo Bay School of Medicine’s Jello Biafra (who also was in this band called Dead Kennedys for a while).
If you dig Lard, you’ll probably also dig Pailhead, which is Jourgensen and ex-Minor Threat, ex-Fugazi, and current Evens singer/guitarist Ian Mackaye. An unlikely pairing, for sure, but the EP they cranked out called Trait is a beast. You’ve also got Revolting Cocks, 1000 Homo DJs, and a bunch more to check out.
2. “Ding a ding dang my dang a long ling long.” ’Nuff said.
3. Ministry fanboyed out beautifully with their homage to Public Image Limited (PIL) with “The Cannibal Song” from The Mind Is A Terrible To Taste. Listen to that song between “Albatross” and “Memories” from PIL’s Second Edition (the Metal Box record), and you’ll hear the true nature of Ministry’s tribute/nod instantly.
4. Ministry’s three-album attack on George W. Bush (2004’s Houses of the Mole, 2006’s Rio Grande Blood, and 2007’s The Last Sucker) isn’t the band’s best work. But the dedication to the subject matter was epic, and fuck, they are Ministry records. So play ’em loud. If they did this to Trump, the band would probably get tweeted about for weeks.
5. The cover of Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay” on Filth Pig is pretty badass. One wonders if it was Dylan’s original version or the totally underrated Hoyt Axton cover from 1976 that inspired Jourgensen to do this song.
6. Jourgensen’s autobiography, Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen, is a must-read for all true fans. While some of the stories might have been a bit embellished, and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart, it’s also impossible to put down.
7. Those of a certain age will remember dancing to “Everyday is Halloween” at teen clubs and gay bars willing to look the other way when it came to asking for an ID in the mid-’80s. The song came out in 1984, and although it didn’t really foreshadow what was to come from the band just a few years later, for many fans it’s a giggle in black lipstick.
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8. On that note, 1983’s With Sympathy is a pretty great record. “Effigy (I’m Not An)” and “Revenge” would have been a pretty tough one-two combo to beat if not for “Stigmata” and “The Missing” off of 1988’s The Land of Rape and Honey.
9. The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste is just plain rockin’. This was probably one of the most played albums at parties in 1989 and 1990. When they ripped into “Thieves” at the Americana Ballroom in 1990, it was one of the most vicious 800-person mosh pits in Phoenix music history. The building probably still smells a bit like concentrated anger.
10. Al Jourgensen, amazingly enough, is still alive. Go see him play on November 7.
Ministry are scheduled to perform at The Van Buren on Tuesday, November 7. Tickets are $37.50 to $52.50 via thevanburenphx.com.