Friday, September 24, 2010

You've Got Foetus On Your Breath - Ache (1982)

Jim Thirlwell is native Australian (now living in New York) who has recorded under many different names over the years: You've Got Foetus On Your Breath, Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel, Foetus Inc., Foetus Interruptus, and most recently, just plain old Foetus. In case these rather eccentric choices don't clue you in, the music (and possibly the man behind it) is nuts. This is the second full length Foetus album, and while there are many other great examples of this man's music, I'm rather fond of this one.

Thirlwell is nothing if not controversial. The red, white and black Soviet/Fascist inspired cover art would be a theme throughout much of his career, and it's as provocative as it is visually compelling. The music is no less confrontational, although there is a pronounced sense of fun that is largely absent from the industrial music of his contemporaries. And while we're on the subject, Foetus has longed been lumped into the industrial category because of his abrasive use of synthesizers and drum machines and the DIY, punk-like spirit of his music, but in truth the sound varies so much that any real attempt to pigeonhole it is futile. I stick with the industrial label for reasons of convention.

So what does it sound like? It's actually kind of difficult to say. Thirlwell employs a huge variety of sounds on his records. Cheap Casio synths and low rent drum machines dominate, peppered with horns, bass, the occasional sample and most important Thirlwell's hyperactive, paranoid voice alternately yelping and growling. The keyboards are commuonly microtuned just a hair away from standard tuning to add to the audience's discomfort. The pace is almost uniformly frantic and it will surely get your heart pumping faster, but Thirlwell steers clear of repetitive techno-like loops in favor of jittery, ever shifting rhythms and busy arrangements. If this sounds unpleasant, it's because I haven't yet mentioned Thirlwell's gift for catchy hooks. The songs are surprisingly infectious, and a ton of fun if you're in the mood.

Stylistically, the record (like all Foetus records) is all over the map. From the film noir atmospherics of "J. Q. Murder" to the intentionally obnoxious repetition of "Get Out Of My House" to the inexplicable fixation on the theme from "Rawhide" that shows up halfway through the album and refuses to go away, you never know quite what to expect. The highlight for me is tha album's final track, "Instead, I Became Anenome." It's such a bizarre, yet fun tune and the lyrics are exceptional.

Lyrics have always been an important part of the Foetus sound. Thirlwell excells at clever wordplay, punning and free association rhymes that come out of nowhere. Made up words like "antihistorectomy" are common as well.

So while not for the faint of heart, Foetus offers a guaranteed wild ride that, if it doesn't excite you, will at least annoy your neighbors.

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