First of all, let’s make one thing clear : Jim Thirlwell (I’ll call him Jimbo, every fan on the planet seems to call him Jimbo) is a god. Jimbo isn’t a part of industrial music history : he IS industrial music, like Genesis P.Orridge or Blixa Bargeld ARE industrial music. And when referring to Foetus - and all his unnumerable side projects, Steroid Maximus, Wiseblood, Manorexia, etc. - as « industrial », you encompass all styles of « industrial » : metal-banging, oscillator distorting, heavy guitar riffing over beatboxes, walls of noises, dark-ambient, orchestral manipulations, improvisation, computers, aural torture, dancefloor chaos, spoken words... Plus some heavy amount of jazz. Foetus without the jazz wouldn’t be the same. Never heard a Foetus record ? Think of Tom Waits remixed by Graeme Revell in his SPK days, something like that. Get the point ? Need more data to understand this guy is a music living god ? Worked with Coil/The Virgin Prunes/Marc Almond/The Birthday Party/Nick Cave/Voivod/Nine Inch Nails/Nurse With Wound/Lydia Lunch/Raymond Watts (basically, Pig is a Foetus imitation)/I forget some. Heavily influenced Ministry and Nine Inch Nails, was ripped off by White Zombie (listen to « more human than human » and then « Stop trying to tie me » by Wiseblood). And, last but not least, this guy is a SONGWRITER, with some of the greatest english lyrics written - short sentences like « a woman’s place is on my face » or « the center of the universe is a very crowded place » are good sum-ups of his bitter lyrical wit. Yeah, some kind of industrial Tom Waits, really.
Now you got the picture, let’s get to the disappointment : this album somewhat sucks. At least the first three times you listen.
While most Foetus albums are a chaotic mix of almost anything - with the invariable swing/big-band songs, orchestral interludes and fucked-up rock'n'roll vs beatbox anthems, "Love" is a very coherent attempt to get back the harpsichord as the basic instrument for popular music. Hell, did I say back ? Sorry for this - the only popular music track I can remember with an harsichord, before this album, was the great "golden brown" by The Stranglers. Anyway, every song on Love features at one point or other some harpsichord - and this gives you a clue : Love is an orchestral album, from the beginning to the end. Score music, soundtrack music, neo-classical music, call it as you wish : 90% of the ingredients for this album are purely orchestral. Strings, brasses, percussions, piano, woodwinds, harpsichord, let's not forget the harpsichord, marching drums, tympanons ; there are very few "usual elements" on the tracks, almost no guitar, not much "classic" drums, no industrial noise at all, very few samples and synths (except for some cool 70's sounding moog, but by now, Moog should be thought of as an instrument from the orchestra). If you don't know Jim works alone in his studio with his machines and computers, you really can think this has been recorded with a full orchestra. Very few effects, very few overtly electronic songs. Well, does this make a good or a bad album ?
At first listen, most foetus fans will be utterly disapointed. Where are the growling, throat-rasping, grunting songs featuring Jim as a sleazy messiah for a post-atomic world ? Where is the badass swing from hell ? Where are the walls of distorted noises ? Almost nowhere to be seen. And, wait, Jim sings instead of screaming like a sexy beast. Tries to sing at least, in the most classical way, and, well, the voice of the guy is wonderful, but not when he tries to get melodical and beautiful and such. In most tracks, he's sounding like a demented punk singer in a methadone cure trying to sing like Freddy Mercury. Or maybe Celine Dion. Or maybe Frank Sinatra ? Awful, anyway Is this REALLY a Foetus record ?
Second listen : hey, these songs... well, some of them lack something, but... There's a lot of intiresting intricate symphonic patterns... And well, his voice, yes it's irritating, but, after all... you can forget about this... And it's not all the time, he has those menacing whispers and moans and narrations, something like Mickey Rourke's over-voice in Sin City... Maybe not Jim's best record, but... And there's this GREAT song with Jennifer Charles (from Elysian Fields) singing...
third listen : killer tunes indeed. And who cares about his voice anyway ? I have to take more ! more !
Yes, this album grows on you. And it grows BIGGER AND BIGGER. Like a drug.
1. (Not Adam) Definitely not the best song on the album, but a good opener. Harpsichord from the beginning, then a mad dramatic drive to god knows where...
2. Mon Agonie Douce This one is a waltz, sung in "french" (at least I recognised some french - I'm french, but when someone tries to sing it, it can get very strange), reminding A LOT of The Stranglers song I mentionned before. Anyway, this track features some of the weirdest brass-riffs ever, in the great Tom Waits/Tuxedomoon/Lounge Lizards tradition.
3. Aladdin Reverse A slow ambiant menace, like one of these creeping suspense scenes in 70's movies, brooding bass, subdued orchestral washes broken by apparently aleatory metal percussions... Dirty Harry style ! And then the songs really begins, low-spoken voice, and you feel like a storm is coming and you're lost on a dead-end street, and then hell breaks loose, thunderous orchestra hits, urban drums... This song can't be depicted more. It's epic, it's operatic, David Lynch could shoot a movie out of it. Killer tune, one of the darkest Jim ever wrote or performed.
4. Miracle after the incredible Aladdin Reverse, rim-shot brazilian jazz ? Is this a joke ? No, wait. This one may look a bit poppish at the beginning, but wait, wait...
5. Don't Want Me Anymore - another suspense soundtrack beginning, with some ethnical woodwind (reminded me of the Exorcist II soundtrack by Ennio Morricone), then turning to one of the saddest melancholic Foetus songs ever. Quite similar to Aladdin reverse in the epic construction, but way less angrier - this one won't scare you, it'll make you cry.
6. Blessed Evening : more or less, nothing new in this one, but a well-crafted "Love" song.
7. Pareidolia : beautifully laidback song, with no explosion, leaving you on your own expectations...
8. Thrush : featuring the fascinatingly treated voice of Jennifer Charles (it sounds like sand falling, if that makes sense - listen to understand), and more electronic rythms and bleeps - which are not the most interesting thing in that song. Really, the tinkerbell beats the bleep, here...
9. Time Marches On : quite similar to "Not Adam", in the beginning, but turning into military soundtrack stuff, music for armies marching... marching to nowhere, apparently. The tic-toc of a clock, the detuned piano-pattern are there to make one thing clear : death awaits.
10. How To Vibrate : last song for the album, logically, it's got the same construction as same of the already heard - brooding and menacing orchestra slowly building, cynical vocals, then, sucker, take this orchestral bombast in your face, and wait, here's some heavily treated guitar to put you on your knees. And when Jim made sure our ears bleed and our heart is broken, he leaves us with nothing but the sound of a cheap organ slowly stopping... Fade to black, that's the end of the movie.
Jim Thirlwell wrote here some of his most beautiful and achieved music, bombastic, melancolic, eerie-sounding, brass-blasting, string grinding. It's like Ennio Morricone fucking with Lalo Schifrin on acid, it's like Barry Adamson escaping from a psychiatric hospital, it's like The Divine Comedy infected by pure darkness. Jim takes you for a ride with the four hoursemen of the apocalypse, once more... Tracks like Aladdin Reverse or Time Marches On will be remembered as essential Foetus songs, maybe THE essential Foetus songs. Essential !!!!