CD Review of Cover Up by Ministry
Recommended if you like
Me First & The Gimmie Gimmies, Skinny Puppy, KMFDM
Label
13th Planet Records
Ministry: Cover Up

Reviewed by James B. Eldred

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H
ere it is; the last Ministry release. Al Jourgenson is (allegedly) retiring the name and moving on to other projects. And while he’s spent most of the past four years delivering album after album of left-wing political diatribes (with varying degrees of success) he’s surprisingly decided to close out Ministry’s discography with, of all things, a covers record.

Cover Up opens strong with a radical reinterpretation of the Stones’ classic “Under My Thumb.” The surprisingly synth-heavy take on the twisted Stones tune simultaneously reminds you that Ministry used to be a synth-pop band and the Stones used to write really sick songs.

It’s clear that Jourgenson looked no further than his local classic rock radio station’s playlist when deciding which songs to take on. AOR mainstays like “Bang a Gong,” “Radar Love,” and “Mississippi Queen” get the industrial treatment, as do Deep Purple’s “Space Truckin’” and ZZ Top’s “Just Got Paid.”

Ministry’s signature ultra-fast style works better for some of these classic cuts than others. When Mountain recorded “Mississippi Queen” back in 1970, it was pretty “heavy metal” for its time. After getting reprogrammed by Al’s drum machine, it’s transformed into a trash headbanger, tailor made for moshing. Thankfully the cowbell remains. The remake of “Black Betty” is fun to listen to at first, but since the song has already been covered by everyone from Nick Cave to Pat Travers (and it even kind of got a hardcore makeover once before when Aussie rockers Spiderbait took it on in 2004), that fun is short-lived. Of course Ministry is covering Ram Jam’s version, which is actually a cover in and of itself, since that song is actually an ancient blues number dating back to God knows when.

“Space Truckin’” and “Just Got Paid” don’t make it over to the industrial side nearly as well as those other tunes, mostly because they are way too faithful to the originals. Speeding up a song and adding a cavalcade of drum beats doesn’t make it industrial. Actually, maybe it does -- but that still doesn’t change the fact that these covers are boring and unnecessary.

And as far as the cover of “Roadhouse Blues” is concerned, it was a bad idea on The Last Sucker, and it’s a bad idea here.

Ministry

“Roadhouse Blues’ isn’t the only song from a previous album making a repeat appearance. The sludge-metal sounding take on “Lay Lady Lay” reared its head first on the forgettable Filth Pig before showing up again on the greatest hits compilation Greatest Fits. And the cover of Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut” is actually from 1000 Homo DJs, one of Jourgenson’s many side-projects (which is why the album is technically credited to “Ministry and Co-Conspirators”). Unfortunately, this isn’t the version of the song that has Trent Reznor on vocals.

Since this is then technically a compilation album from various artists, there are a few noticeable omissions. Not present is a cover from another one of Al’s projects -- the Revolting Cocks’ legendary take on “(Let’s Get) Physical” and their live version of Public Image Ltd.’s “Public Image.” A cover of Magazine’s “Light Pours out of Me” from Ministry’s Animositisomina is also nowhere to be seen (although that might be because no one in America knows who the hell Magazine is).

No one ever expects a high degree of creativity or effort from a covers album, and most people probably haven’t expected much from Ministry for the past decade or so either. But even with those lowered expectations, Cover Up is still kind of a letdown. The reliance on classic rock mainstays is annoying, since it’s obvious that Jourgenson’s musical tastes go far beyond that (remember, Ministry was a synth-pop band at one point), and it would have been great to hear his interpretations on some ‘80s new wave or maybe even some punk tunes. The one real chance Al takes on Cover Up is at the end, with a truly epic take on “What a Wonderful World.” It’s the last song you’d expect him to take on, and that’s precisely why it’s so damn great.

Cover Up is a fun enough listen, and serves as a great mindless respite from the heavy-handed political grandstanding of The Last Sucker. It also works remarkably well as a coda for Ministry, since Al’s always used the name to walk a fine line between serious art and serious silliness.

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