“Cover Up” (13th Planet/ Megaforce)
by Scott Hefflon
A mixed bag with these 11 covers, performed by Ministry and pals. The bio stresses that no matter the Bush-bashing and industrial-rage, there was always humor in Ministry. Sometimes ya just had to dig for it, which is why many of us shifted to the Strapping Young Lad camp, cuz the humor, rage, and glorious production were all right there, no digging needed. Devin’s brighter, more versatile, and more creative, to me, and anyone who thinks otherwise is more than welcome to be completely wrong.
Many of these covers are, well, they’re Ministry industrializing a ’70s classic. Aside from production bombast and more distortion and a drum machine on crack, the arrangements aren’t much different. Unlike many bands who cover great songs, Ministry can sing, don’t have to dumb down solos or “the hard parts,” and their co-conspirators – while not up to their best here – are all talented musicians in on the joke. Most of the add-ons are Revolting Cocks members, Burton C. Bell from Fear Factory, and Tommy Victor of Prong. Both singers (Tommy is a damn fine guitarist as well) have done amazing things in their careers, but neither recently, and neither break the pattern here.
Specifically… “Under my Thumb” with Burton singing: Whatever. It’s pretty bad. “Bang A Gong” is cool song, and they don’t fuck it up. “Radar Love” has very quiet/rock-out balance Ministry kinda mow down, but again, it’s such a great song, it’s hard to do a very bad cover of it. “Space Truckin'” by Deep Purple isn’t an important song to me, so a barely passable cover of it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. The original “Black Betty” is such a vital rocker, with surprisingly gutsy production for a ’70s tune, I’ve never heard a cover that beats it, therefore all have been failures. This cover has a nice lil break-up of distorted vocals vs. group shout, but cheering for that is like the wind carrying away your dollar bill, but finding a nickel on the ground. “Mississippi Queen” is great on guitar, lame on the vocals. A straight cover. ZZ Top’s “Just Got Paid” deserves better. Not my fave ZZ Top song, or even in my top ten (and they had probably three dozen great tunes under their beards, er, belts). The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues” was on The Last Sucker (which I didn’t much care for after a couple decades of kick-ass releases I got as soon as they came out), and the tunefulness and self-destruction of both bands jibe, and the tunes pretty well rocks. True Doors fans might hate it, but as a casual fan of the band, and a huge fan of destruction, I’m always up for a singalong to smash things to. Sabbath’s “Supernaut” was covered about 15 years ago, on a Sabbath tribute, Nativity in Black or something, under the name 1000 Homo DJs, which was the best part of the song. Never cared for the original, never cared for the cover, and its inclusion here simply reminds me of that. Uh, maybe it was a protest song originally, and Ministry did an “instrumental” version of it (samples linked together, woo-hoo, how exciting) to update it? Dunno, I’ve never been engaged by it or covers of it. Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay” was a real low point for Ministry, off Filth Pig, which I vaguely remember hating, but not enough to stick. And seeing as Ministry have made some of my most cherished albums ever, to barely remember some garbage they shat out during some dark period, well, that means it’s well worth passing on. And then two or three versions of “What a Wonderful World” (Louis Armstrong’s version being the most famous, and Ramones’ cover – just before Joey died – being my second fave) which range from “why bother?” to “heh, right on!” Evidently, everyone was loaded, they hooked up to a $100 out-of-tune piano and some $70 mic and went at it with a room full of drunks. That doesn’t make the version any more listenable, just more explainable. The rip-roaring industrialized punk ending of one of the takes is pretty classic, but if you didn’t know the song lent itself to some pretty slammable punk rock mayhem, ya simply don’t know the song all that well, bitch.