The man who should rightly be referred to as Reznor’s daddy* (both in terms of chronology and quality) is now more than a mere Industrialist. He has been for a while, to be honest, but historically his more experimental tendencies have taken the form of non-Foetus projects like Manorexia and Steroid Maximus.
As a result of this diversification, and work on Cartoon Network soundtracks, this is Thirlwell’s first new album proper (i.e. non-remix) in half a decade. His last before this was, of course, the excellent Flow. That album was such a grand explosion of rock experi-mentalism that Jimmy can definitely be forgiven for leaving it five years.
Thirlwell’s flair for the grand (Foetus Big Band, and his regular soundtrackular fondness) is something to be applauded, as is the trait of collecting and layering all kinds of sounds that results in him coming across like William Gibson writing Tom Waits. Sometimes, though, Thirlwell’s biggest strength is also his albatross, much like Mike Patton: can it be that he just has too many ideas for his own good?
Many of the songs don’t seem to work as songs per se. They are certainly very valid and well-executed musical ideas, and his arrangement and production are predictably excellent. It’s all just a tad lacking in excitement. Maybe the production is so good that it sucked all the raw energy out of the music. Maybe he’s just getting old. Maybe it’s just me. The climax of ‘Miracle’ should have me hurling myself against the wall in ecstasy, but it’s not. Maybe I just need to play it louder.
Or maybe the Foetus that releases dirty, electro-fied rock albums has run his natural course. Something tells me ‘Not Adam’ or ‘Don’t Want Me Anymore’ would work better re-tooled for soundtrack use.
Sometimes the melange of ideas, neo-Mancini desire and everything else, combines to work perfectly, as on the absolutely brilliant ‘Time Marches On’. At three minutes in length, it avoids the time pitfalls that many of the other tracks fall prey to. And it just rules. Layered and energetic, it is somewhere between Reznor and Devin Townsend (listen to his ‘Bad Devil’; and tell me who has the best tunes), and justifies the existence of the entire album.
It also leads nicely into the conclusive ‘How to Vibrate’, which is also strong. As a whole, though, the album is slightly lacking and if I was a Foetus person, I might be disappointed I waited half a decade for this. Then again, if I was a Foetus person, I would probably be happy there was new Foetus.
And while there is a distinctly reassuring seediness to proceedings, part of me wonders whether that is not just the muscle memory of the sordidness of his 90s work. And that just makes me want to listen to some Wiseblood.
*Weirdly, near the end of ‘Aladdin Reverse’, Jim seems to teef the sound of Reznor’s ‘We’re in this Together’, but I suppose the latter owes him.