I think Ministry mastermind Al Jourgensen really wants to have a sense of humor. After all, he comes up with fine side project names—Revolting Cocks is but one gem—and speaks openly of his missing toe. He just has problems putting funny stuff into his music. Even when he leavens Ministry’s pure industrial thwack with the Cocks’ slower tempos and cracked blooze, no dice. Cocked and Loaded tries hard, with song titles like “Jack in the Crack” and “Prune Tang,” and guest stars like noted funnymen Gibby Haynes and Rick Nielsen. But then, as though to demonstrate his profound misunderstanding of this thing “humor,” Al also afflicts us with the Jello Biafra composition “Viagra Culture,” the sort of “ironic” “dismantling” of “capitalism” you’d find in any open-mic folkie club, surely the least funny place on earth. Isn’t hiring Jello to get laughs like hiring Jack Johnson to liven things up?
But you see, the Cocks just put on this show of Cocksmanship to stave off intense feelings that threaten to overwhelm. I want to mother them. But bombarded by C&L’s scroungy Texas thrash and pomo references masquerading as jokes, I find they reject my affections at every turn, obsessed instead with their own crust. If, as they’d doubtless claim, it’s all a joke, what’s the punchline? “Fuck you”? Well, fuck that—the RNC can have ’em. Of course, there’s a thin line between “it’s all a joke” and “this is nothing to joke about,” and Jourgensen is that line. Ministry’s Rio Grande Blood takes the latter tack, soundbiting W. like it’s a New World Order all over again and raging (one presumes) against the administration’s atrocities in the lyrics. The relentless snare on each beat even mirrors W.’s penchant for driving home his unwavering points. The result is satisfyingly crunchy and sonically inventive on occasion (mostly “Gangreen” and “Ass Clown”), not to mention technically proficient. Has anyone ever sought anything more from a Ministry album?
Ministry and the Revolting Cocks play B.B. King’s Wednesday, June 14. $45 -– $50, 8 p.m., bbkingblues.com