Sunday, May 22, 2011

Weekend Diversion: Ministry

This week’s choice is one that could be outside the mainstream, but it isn’t. Ministry in early 1980s was a band that was sort of a New Wave synthpop blend, and then in the late 1980s/early 1990s morphed into an industrial thrash metal band. I only liked the early version.

I first encountered Ministry in the legendary Chicago record store, Wax Trax!, which was located at 2449 North Lincoln Avenue, north of Fullerton Avenue in the city’s DePaul Neighbourhood. It was the home of New Wave, punk rock and industrial metal—and a significant selection of dance music, too. The first commercial Ministry’s album, With Sympathy, was released in 1983.

Ministry released four 12” singles through Wax Trax!, which is where I found them. I used to listen to With Sympathy back in the day, and later got the 12” versions of "All Day" and "Every Day is Halloween". I never bought one of their metal albums.

Wax Trax!, meanwhile, was an institution. It had been founded as a record shop in 1974 in Denver by Jim Nash and Dannie Flesher, then sold in 1978. They opened a new store in Chicago in November of that year, and released its first record in 1980. Among the many records they released were 12 inch versions of Laibach’s Opus Dei, a song that was the Weekend Diversion last week.

The business went bankrupt in 1992 and was bought by TVT Records of New York. Jim Nash died from AIDS-related complications on October 10, 1995, but his life partner, Dannie Flesher, continued until 2001, when TVT closed the business and he retired from the music business. Flesher died of pneumonia on January 10, 2010.

Ministry continued until 2008, when the band’s founder, Al Jourgensen, retired the name. He reportedly hated With Sympathy, alleging it was the way it was because he’d lost creative control. I always thought his attitude was unfortunate. As the music review on iTunes aptly put it, “Al Jourgensen must be more insecure about his past than a superstar linebacker of childhood courses in ballet.”

This week’s song, then, is a sad selection: The band I liked changed completely, the place I bought it went out of business, its owners died, and the unique vibe created by that store is now part of Chicago’s—and my own—cultural history.

The video above is an audio-only recording of the extended mix of "Work for Love", from With Sympathy. There don’t seem to be any music videos of the song, so I thought I may as well use the extended version, because that’s exactly the sort of thing I went to Wax Trax! to buy.


Bjorn said...

Ministry was one of the first bands i heard via mixtapes from friends and went "HOLY CRAP!" Even though the changed I think they got better and helped create and define a whole genre.

Weirdly enough, "Jesus Built My Hot Rod" is my favorite ministry song.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

I have a friend who's the exact opposite of me, liking later Ministry and not the earlier Ministry. Sounds like you're kind of in the middle of that continuum.

I've never heard that particular song, but I like the title!