Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The User's Guide to Skinny Puppy, Part II - Music

We all get a visceral thrill of mentioning a band to another music enthusiast that is so damn cool the other person has never heard of them before. Back in the day when I truly believe that how cool you were was determined by your LP collection, if someone told me they liked the Dead Kennedy's, Depeche Mode and The Cure, I'd hit 'em right back with how much I was into Black Market Baby, Television and Pigface

Such are the singular battles that comprise that time in our young teens and twenties known as, "The Cool Wars," where we just absolutely need to be more hip than the other person. 

Or maybe you have no idea what I'm talking about, but I'm sure we can also both relate to how cool it feels to get a person into a really badass band. If someone is into Ice Cube, but they've never heard of Westside Connection, well now it's absolutely time to bring that homeboy up to speed on life.

When I was growing up one of my best friends got me into Skinny Puppy by giving me a copy of Remission. I mean, he gave me a cassette tape. This was a million years ago, before CD's got popular, so I am old skool industrial.

At the time I was pretty much into punk, ska, and whatever rap sounded the most violent, starting with Easy E and certainly not ending with N.W.A. and Cypress Hill. It's a freakin' miracle I even sat down to listen to something that was as purely industrial as this album.

We just started playing around with Rabies, and I don't want to move on just yet, but "Smothered Hope" is the first song on the LP, and every time I listen to it, I remember the first time I listened to one of my favorite bands.

This was back when there wasn't much beyond gothic, industrial and early electronica (I'm talking about groups like The Pet Shop Boys) so listening to something I guess I could describe as primitive darkwave was dark and evil fun. 

Late at night, near 2:30 am, when the party was winding down, everyone was passed out and it was just a bunch of guys and girls with spikey hair and leather jackets crashing by a stereo, I'd slap in Remission and check for the reactions of the crowd. I have to admit, to them it probably sounded like satanic disco.

The lead singer of Skinny Puppy, Nivek Ogre, puts his vocals on just about every track, and in concert he really does look like he's very disturbed as he lays down the lyrics. I heard a guy interviewing Nivek Ogre on the radio once that it sounded like Ogre's vocals are put through a "satanizer" during recordings, and you have to agree. Twisted, distorted vocals gives the music the final scary element their music benefits from.

That's not to say Ogre's vocals are always synthesized for terror. On "Candle," the third song from The Process, he sings without electronics twisting the sound to an acoustic guitar. Even for Skinny Puppy that was kind of odd.

Before I go describing the more obscure albums that Skinny Puppy has made, particularly Remission, Too Dark Park and Cleanse, Fold and Manipulate, I want to show you another song you might like. While "Rodent" was kind of a slow burn kind of song, this one is the type of track that populates a dance floor.

The first version is cool, but the remix that can be found on Skinny Puppy's Bites and Remission album (a two-in-one combo featuring a few extra remixes, and certainly worth owning a hundred times over if you like industrial) and it everything you want industrial music to be. It's also the kind of song you play for people you like to get them into a band you appreciate, so here it is.

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