THE HISTORY OF INDUSTRIAL MUSIC
VI. Music 1984-1990
By Michael Casano
By 1984, industrial music began take on a more defined shape, as the punk, metal, and goth influences began to take a step back and an abrasive electronic sound began to emerge. Notably, bands such as D.A.F. (Ein Produkt, 1979; Die Kleinen und Die Bosen, 1980; Alles Ist Gut, 1981) and Fad Gadget (Fireside Favourites, 1980; Incontinent, 1981; Under The Flag, 1982) had previously pointed the genre in a new direction.
Frank Tovey, under the Fad Gadget moniker, released the Gag album in 1984. This would be Fad Gadget’s last release as Tovey began to record under his own name. Also that year, Tovey and Boyd Rice released the Easy Listening For The Hard Of Hearing album, an album that was recorded using no musical instruments at all.
Depeche Mode’s Some Great Reward used elements of the industrial sound and dark lyrical content, but in a more melodically accessible fashion. Though not a true industrial band, Depeche Mode did help further the cause with their mass appeal and previous touring dates with Fad Gadget.
Who remembers the very brief glimpse of Cabaret Voltaire’s Micro-Phonies poster plastered on Ferris Bueller’s bedroom wall? Micro-Phonies was one of the truly great releases of 1984. Even a smart ass rich kid like Ferris knew this.
Other albums of note released in 1984 were Attrition’s The Attrition Of Reason, Leather Nun’s Slow Death, Test Department’s Beating The Retreat, Swans’ Cop, Death In June’s Burial, Skinny Puppy’s Back And Forth, Tones On Tail’s Pop, Current 93’s Nature Unveiled and Dog’s Blood Rising albums, Chris and Cosey’s Songs Of Love And Lust, Christian Death’s Catastrophe Ballet, Coil’s Scatology, Controlled Bleeding’s Body Samples, Lustmord’s Paradise Disowned, SPK’s Machine Age Voodoo, Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel’s Hole, the Legendary Pink Dots’ The Tower album, and Hafler Trio’s Bang! An Open Letter.
1985 was a rather quiet year musically. Perhaps the most important release that year was the Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy album. Though not an industrial album, its influence was far reaching and their legendary chaotic live shows and short songs brought back the earlier buzz of the Sex Pistols and the Ramones. Wrought with earsplitting guitar feedback and emotionless vocals, this album is a true classic. Other important albums released in 1985 were Skinny Puppy’s Bites, Severed Heads’ City Slab Horror, Sleep Chamber’s Submit To Desire, Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel’s Nail, the Sisters of Mercy’s First And Last Always, Die Krupps’ Entering The Arena, Love and Rockets’ Seventh Dream Of Teenage Heaven, Einsturzende Neubauten’s Halber Mensch, Laibach’s Nova Akropola, the Killing Joke’s Night Time, Frank Tovey’s Snakes And Ladders, Death In June’s Nada!, and Sonic Youth’s Bad Moon Rising.
Ministry’s Twitch album is perhaps the most underrated industrial album of the early eighties. This album marked Al Jourgensen’s parting with his synthipop past. This recording was such a drastic attempt to make an extreme musical statement, that it nearly swept up the entire industrial movement in the States like a wave and took the whole scene forward. Skinny Puppy’s Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse was also a departure album for that band, as their sound grew darker and more sophisticated. Other releases in 1986 were Swans’ Greed, Big Black’s Atomizer and The Hammer Party albums, Coil’s Horse Rotorvator, Executive Slacks’ Fire And Ice, the Revolting Cocks’ Big Sexy Land, Love and Rockets’ Express, and Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s Flaunt It.
In 1987, Skinny Puppy released Cleanse, Fold, Manipulate, their most lyrically poignant album to date and took Mind one step further. The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Darklands was a subdued and more accessible return to the glory that was Psychocandy. Front 242 began to emerge as a force with the release of Official Version. The Young Gods’ self-titled album, Big Black’s Songs About Fucking, Nitzer Ebb’s That Total Age, Love and Rockets’ Earth Sun Moon, Non’s Blood And Flame, Laibach’s Opus Dei, and the Legendary Pink Dots’ Any Day Now were other important releases in 1987.
Ministry’s Land Of Rape And Honey was best described by Dave Thompson as ‘The apocalypse caught on tape.’ (Thompson, 2000, p.498) Two other Ministry spin-offs: Lard featuring Al Jourgensen, Paul Barker, and Jello Biafra (The Power Of Lard EP) and Pailhead featuring Jourgensen, Barker, and Ian MacKaye (Trait EP) both released recordings in 1988. Skinny Puppy’s VIVIsectVI was a powerful testament filled with rage, paranoia, and rants about animal vivisection. The aggressive dance music of Front 242 grew even more intense for the Front By Front album. Other albums released in 1988 were Psychic TV’s Allegory And Self, Nurse With Wound’s Soliloquy For Lilith, Numb’s self-titled album, Foetus Interruptus’ Thaw, Die Warzau’s Disco Rigido, and Godflesh’s self-titled LP.
When Nine Inch Nails hit the scene in 1989 with Pretty Hate Machine, industrial music’s level of acceptance by the mainstream music media increased. Bands like Ministry (The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste), Skinny Puppy (Rabies), Frontline Assembly (Gashed Senses And Crossfire), KMFDM (UAIOE), and Meat Beat Manifesto (Storm The Studio) all benefited from an increase in popularity and worldwide critical acclaim. Another Ministry spin-off band, Acid Horse, released the No Name, No Slogan EP. Acid Horse was Jourgensen, Barker, and Stephen Mallinder and Richard Kirk from Cabaret Voltaire. The Revolting Cocks released the Stainless Steel Providers EP. Other releases in 1989 were Tackhead’s Friendly As A Hand Grenade, Love and Rockets’ self-titled album, Mussolini Headkick’s Themes For Violent Retribution, the Young Gods’ L’Eau Rouge, Nurse With Wound’s A Sucked Orange, and Frank Tovey’s Tyranny Of The Hired Hand.
By 1990, two albums emerged from the influential Japanese noisecore scene: the Boredom’s Soul Discharge and Merzbow’s Rainbow Electronics II. 1990 brought together a tremendous pool of talent-laden releases. Avant-garde master John Zorn’s side-project, Naked City, released Torture Garden. A regrouped Killing Joke released the intense Extremities, Dirt, And Various Repressed Emotions album. Skinny Puppy’s apocalyptic masterpiece Too Dark Park and KMFDM’s Naïve were two of the best albums of 1990. More Ministry side-projects released recordings in 1990: Lead Into Gold’s Age Of Reason, Pigface’s Gub, the Revolting Cocks’ Beers, Steers, and Queers, and Lard’s The Last Temptation Of Reid.
Other important releases that year were Mussolini Headkick’s Blood On The Flag, Numb’s Christmeister, Renegade Soundwave’s In Dub, Godflesh’s Streetcleaner, the Legendary Pink Dots’ Crushed Velvet Apocalypse, Meat Beat Manifesto’s 99%, and Cop Shoot Cop’s Consumer Revolt.
A new decade was bringing about new talent. The Lollapalooza Tour would be started by Perry Farrell the following year, incorporating a carnival-like atmosphere with an onslaught of music and mayhem. Industrial bands were finding themselves headlining these shows. In the next article, I will cover the years 1991 to the present. This will wrap up essentially one hundred years of innovative thought, bold creative endeavors, and a tremendous amount of challenging music.
Larkin, Colin, The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Indie And New Wave, 1998, Virgin Books
Thompson, Dave, Alternative Rock, 2000, Miller Freeman Books
Thompson, Dave, Industrial Revolution, 1994, Cleopatra
Copyright, Michael Casano, 2002