Mon, 04 Sep 2006

Ministry - Greatest Fits.

(album cover art)

Matt Palmer blogged recently about music to hack by, which reminded me of a album that I find particularly effective for some hacking tasks.

I rediscovered this album just recently when working for an employer where I simply didn't believe that the product we were working on would ever do what it was supposed to do and we still had ridiculous time constraints. I knew I was wasting my time, so I changed my goal from "producing something useful" to "producing a large bunch of high quality code with a test suite in as little time as possible". The only way for me to succeed at this later goal was to load up XMMS with some Ministry, crank the volume and crunch code.

The Greatest Fits album, released in 2001, was a compilation of Ministry's greatest hits from the period of 1987 to 2001. The genre is industrial metal; sampled machine gun drums, looped mechanical noises, heavy slabs of guitar and bass, distorted vocals and misanthropic lyrics.

I originally bought this album for the scorching cover version of Bob Dylan's gentle 1969 country ballad, "Lay Lady Lay". I quite like Dylan's version, and although Ministry's version is recognizably the same song, no one in their right mind is likely to confuse the two, dispite the fact that Ministry have kept the cowbell that gently propels the original. By way of contrast, the Ministry version is driven by a heavily distorted bass guitar pulse. The verses use slide guitar to sketch out the chord progression and the choruses use large slabs of meaty guitar chords. The finishing touch is Al Jourgensen's screaming vocals. All in all, a marvelously heady brew.

Although I bought this album for "Lay Lady Lay", its not actually my favorite track. That honor would have to go to the album's opener "What about Us?" [0]. Like many Ministry tracks, this one also uses a hypnotic bass line over chunky drums as a foundation for crazy ass slide guitar and screamed vocals. The lyrics are great; like the rantings of a very diseased mind. These lyrics, their delivery and the relentless propulsion of the bass and drums make this track a real winner.

To avoid describing the rest of the tracks I like in detail, I'll just state that others of note are "Thieves", the 10 plus minute live version of "So What", "Jesus Built My Hotrod", the frantic "Supermatic Soul", "Bad Blood" and "Supernaut".

This album is definitely not for every one, but some people might find it useful stimulus for some hacking tasks. Funny thing is that I mentioned to someone at a SLUG meeting that I was hacking to Ministry at work and they went out and bought a Ministry of Sound dance music/techno compilation. I'm pretty sure Ministry of Sound is very different from Ministry the band.

[0] While researching this blog post, I found that "What about Us?" was on the sound track to the 2001 Spielberg movie, Artificial Intelligence.

Posted at: 20:08 | Category: Music | Permalink