DAMP has been out for over a month now, which has given me ample time to listen to it thoroughly and digest it. It is only available through the Foetus Shoppe at foetus.org, so this isn’t something that you’re going to find stocked at your local store or Itunes (and if you actually were considering just downloading it direct to your Ipod, you’re missing out on the artwork… Foetus cover artwork is equally as import as its contents! Also, what kind of fan are you if you download?) You’re also not going to find this floating around on a desk at the typical music rag headquarters… you will actually have to buy it if you want it! JG Thirlwell is offering a more intimate offering into his world, so if you like his works… keep reading and don’t be a cheapskate!
What’s different about DAMP as compared to many other Foetal releases is that it is sort of a hodgepodge. The only other one I can think of in his catalogue that is like this is “SINK” in that it shows a larger period of history, which has converged for all the right reasons. With that said, it’s not a ‘best of’ nor is it a ‘singles collection’, and I really wouldn’t say it’s a ‘b-sides’ record either (and definitely not a ‘rock opera’.). It’s more like a portfolio of really good ideas that may have seemed a bit out of context at one point, but could eventually turn into something delightful when the time comes. It’s not particularly conceptual (there are many different stories going on here, so if you are looking for the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, you’re barking up the wrong tree!) Not everything has to be a continuous story with JG’s work. He’s unpredictable, which keeps a large majority of his fans not only in awe of what he’s already done, but salivating of what’s to come since he seems to not be slowing down anytime soon. However, if you are looking for another NAIL or THAW, you’re obviously not ready for what’s cooking at Self Immolation (JG’s home base and studio in Brooklyn, NY). Also, if you’re hoping for a rehash of his past, then maybe you need to do some growing up! He’s grown up, so maybe it’s time for his fans to grow with him!
The opening song “I Hate You All” (originally commissioned for Japanese recording artist Atsushi) is an instant classic. It’s very over-the-top and bombastic, and the lyrics are hilarious! I’ve heard other fans say it reminds them of “Pedal to the Metal” (from JG’s Wiseblood), and I can hear a similarity, but “I Hate You All” conjures much more of a visual element. The song really inspires me to want to create an animated visual to go with it (maybe I should pitch an idea to JG?) It’s also the type of song that is extremely catchy… you can’t get the melody out of your head, it’s very toe-tapping-gum-snapping rhythmic! Also, the lyrics being as convivially anthropophobic as they are, it makes you wonder how JG lives in such a populated place as NYC. It must be a love/hate thing, only he can say… but it certainly makes a great song!
The 2nd song “Antabuse” and last song “Cold Shoulder” are both instrumentals tracks on DAMP (the 1st being short, jarring, and abrupt… and the latter being a lengthy rollercoaster ride). These songs do not need lyrics, they seep into the brain and tell their own story (which is subject to interpretation to the listener, and I won’t patronize you the reader trying to tell you what they mean… you have a brain, so use it!) These are much more like JG’s Steroid Maximus and Manorexia projects in that they are instrumental, but their sound and direction compliments the remaining tracks on DAMP, and is more suited for a Foetus release.
The 3rd track “Chimera” is my favorite from DAMP. Its very delicate and heartsick… a hushed hymn, so to speak. It’s really nice to hear JG’s voice having the capability of being soothing. It’s also quite remarkable that he is adroitly able to produce something so exquisite and charming. JG hasn’t grown soft either, its honesty in the lyrics are walking the tightrope of peril on tip-toes (he hasn’t found ‘god’ nor is he ‘pussywhipped’) it’s just a different way of channeling his flustered emotions.
The 4th track “Into the Light” (originally from the NULL EP, but revitalized) is extremely unsettling, but not in a bad way. It reminds of 70’s horror film atmosphere (IE demon possession or ghosts), and it drips with eeriness! Also, if you listen closely, you will hear a bellowing Faye Dunaway barking one of her most memorable lines from Mommy Dearest “NO MORE WIRE HANGERS!!!” That alone is disquieting, but goddamn great!
“Shrunken Man” (the 5th entry) was originally from The The’s “Interpretations” EP that came out in 1999. The song is written by Matt Johnson (a longtime buddy of JG’s) and that EP was the song executed 4 different ways (and this is one of those versions). I was already familiar with this song since I own the EP, but it fits in nicely on DAMP, mostly because there is an ongoing aqueous theme throughout… which DAMP is the perfect 4-letter, monosyllabic title to describe its contents. When I had gotten the news that DAMP was coming out, I automatically made the assumption that it had vaginal connotations (which it may, but only JG could answer that) but anyone who has been following his work, the 4-letter titles have dual meanings. Plus, if his work has taught us anything, its NOT to assume… and he’s got more sophistication and imagination than always relying on the ‘Love Canal’ as a one trick pony. There’s more going on in that red head of his!
Moving right along, “Mine is no Disgrace” (a song he originally recorded with The Melvins on their ‘Crybaby’ record) is quite the tear-jerker! It’s a page from his diary with all of its gut-wrenching dissensions, and it really has nothing to hide. This is the one track that is radically different from the rest (mainly because it’s an entirely different band providing the music). I’ve never really been too into the Melvins, but this was a good pairing of musical entities.
“Hemo the Cuckold” sounds current and fresh like LOVE, and the vocals are very fluidic. It’s another anthem of being grossed out by humans (as is “I Hate You All”) but this time the individuals who make our protagonist sick, are much more narrowed down. It’s not general disgust, it’s very specific! It’s the type of thoughts that most people won’t say aloud, but they happen to notice the details of those surrounding them when stuck in the same place for too long (if you’ve ever been to the DMV and stood in line… the lyrics spell out pretty much what you’re thinking, but JG’s voice is like the hot breath of your conscience!) The music builds and is menacing… sounds like a chase scene, but you’re not being chased… its more like your mind going in circles, chasing itself.)
“Not in Your Hands” was previously released on the ‘not (Adam)’ EP, and I wondered why it wasn’t included on LOVE (since it fits in with the theme and atmosphere of LOVE) but works just as well on DAMP. The voice in the beginning sounds like JG is crooning into the rotating blades of a fan, but as the music progresses, you feel that dewy signature that seems to be omnipresent throughout DAMP… tying in once again, the watery theme.
“Paging Dr. Strong” was recorded with the group Rotoskop, and is one of the juiciest tracks of DAMP. I am not sure why, but I get that ‘dirty old man in a raincoat’ vibe from this one. I’m not sure who Dr. Strong is, but I get the feeling he’s not legit, probably the type who practices insurance fraud, compulsive gambling, writes his own prescriptions for OxyContin, and picks and pokes at his lesions from herpes (and then doesn’t wash his hands). This apparently is a ‘raw demo’ version of the original track (that wasn’t previously released) but it sounds pretty complete to me. I really like JG’s nasally loud speaker refrain… its good rancor.
“Blessed Evening” (Phylr Remix) is probably my least favorite. Phylr (aka Jim Coleman) reinterprets a song that really didn’t need any fine-tuning. I am much more partial to the original on LOVE. I’m not saying it’s terrible, but sometimes it just doesn’t need fixin’! There are still traces of the original in it, but most have been washed away with some sort of break beat, and the intro whispery “as this blessed evening falls…” mutated vocals remind of the creepy ‘Buffalo Bill’ character from “Silence of the Lambs”. I just don’t hear it as what the lyrics are… I hear it as “I’d fuck me so hard!” or “…it puts the lotion in the basket!”
And finally (since I already discussed the final track ‘Cold Shoulder’) this will be devoted to the insanely fucking awesome “SIEVE”. “Sieve” is a song JG’s been performing live-only for some time, but never had a studio version. Well, it’s one of those things that lucky longtime Foetus fans have had the chance to observe and obsess over, and even though I am a longtime fan, I’ve never witnessed it unlike the handful of fans out there that’ve been passionate for it. This song conjures up so many visuals, and its beat/melody/hook makes you just want to get up and shake your ass! The opening lyrics are the ingredients to a fill-in-the-blank unhealthy product for consumption despite all of the volatile organic compounds! This song is the KY with a cherry on top! I envision baby-oiled butts shaking the ‘junk in their trunks’ to this in unison (kind of like the ‘Bring it On’ video by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds… or ‘Baby Got Back’ by SirMixAlot) although there is no mention of rump shakin’ or ‘Hershey-Highways’ but hey, a lot of ideas can be passing through one who has a mind like a ‘SIEVE.’
That’s sums it up at this time on my end, I’ll probably disagree with everything I’ve said about this masterpiece a year from now, but that’s how it’s interpreted on my end. As I had mentioned it before, buy the fucking thing… don’t download! The artwork will make you cum! The red-spot varnish is enough to cause ‘oily secretions’ (especially from anyone who understands graphic design or works in the print industry… its particularly shit-hot!!)