Part of the disused Ryan Speck internet empire; a place for writing, complaining, and procrastinating. (For everything else, check ryanspeck.com.)

Posts Tagged: industrial

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OmnipresentAnyone who actually looked over my “top 101 industrial songs” list might have noticed the fact that it was fairly Hate Dept.-heavy. In fact, there were four tracks from Omnipresent, Hate Dept.’s 1996 album, on the list, three of which were in the top 20. And the fact that there were only four tracks on the list is more a testament to my personal restraint than what I actually think about the album.

I still remember the first time I listened to Omnipresent; I’m sad to say it’s not a thrilling moment of “getting it”. I was in my friend’s car, riding out from the Atlanta suburb of Fayetteville, heading into the city, undoubtedly for some aspect of our weekly ritual of going to Tower Records, seeing movies, and god only knows what else. My friend drove, so he brought along CD’s and we mainly listened to what he chose. On the rare occassion I drove, the role was reversed. In this case, he put on Omnipresent, which must have been very new. I was young, 19, and stupid in that way that every teenager is; I was in that phase that some people never grow out of, where you’re so excited about the new, wonderful albums you’ve just found that you want to play them for everyone, so any moment you’re listening to someone else’s music instead of what you’ve chosen is a waste. I’d had no previous exposure to Hate Dept. and I was probably thinking about how awesome 16 Volt’s Letdowncrush was or some such bullshit, so I kept thinking “Who gives a fuck about ‘This Doggy Bites’? I want to listen to my music.”

Embarassing to realize now, but I obviously warmed on it, though I’m not sure how quickly I picked up a copy. I remember more about finally finding a copy of Meat.Your.Maker, quite the feat in Atlanta, where I had to search for months or order CD’s from record stores to be sure to get my hands on them; it was much more in tune with my juvenile, aggressive sensibilities, which makes perfect sense, as Seibold was basically my then-age when he wrote it. In all the ways it was punky, in-your-face, and vulgar for the purpose of giving offense, Omnipresent was not.

Obviously at some point (maybe after I started getting laid), I did recognize something, some kernal within Omnipresent that spoke to me and still does to this day.

Meat.Your.Maker, while good, wasn’t a complex or layered album, more interested in youthful bravado and aggression, and lacking the technology and expertise to push it forward. Technical Difficulties, the long-awaited third album of 1999, polished off too many edges and tried too hard to balance the punk, rock, and electronic aspects into something palatable to everyone. It was a great album, but not one that I continue going back to, despite the inclusion of “Hit Back” on my list (and the belief that it’s a perfect gateway track for non-industrial listeners to start getting an understanding of industrial music’s range, styles, and appeal). And it was a long, long wait for Ditch, the last Hate Dept. album to be released, back in the floundering days of 2004, when a few bands attempted a last stand against the stampede of boring EBM blandness, clutching futilely at straws of the greatness that once was 90’s industrial-rock. Easily the most stylistically varied of the albums, Ditch did what it did masterfully, though it’s hard to imagine that the patchwork of different styles and tones pleased everyone that wasn’t a Hate Dept. fan already.

Omnipresent, for its part, still seems different than the rest of the Hate Dept. catalogue; it speaks much more to the electronic side of industrial music and Seibold’s love of synthpop, leaving the aggression to boil beneath the surface of the music. What could easily be mistaken for synthpop tracks often burn with a bubbling rage just beneath the veneer of pop songwriting.”Won’t Stay Lit” is the pefect example of this, his vocals brimming with disgust over the top of an incredibly simple piece of instrumentation.

The songs, though written very differently, feel much more tied-together through the tone of the production and the instruments used. If there’s any meaning hidden in the title “Omnipresent”, perhaps it’s reflected in the way everything ties together so well.

The only regret I have about the album is the fact that the instrumental “Dreams Of Conspiracy” was included on the album instead of the song “Omnipresent” that its music and the album’s title were taken from. (It also began a trend continued with Technical Difficulties, where the title track of the album wasn’t actually on the album, instead ending up on a releated EP.)

Though I ranked “Won’t Stay Lit” as my top track of all-time, largely due to the maudlin synthpop tone mixed with those bitter vocals and the message they convey, the songs “Rejoice” (which shares many similarities with “Won’t Stay Lit”) and “Flesh Feeds Soul” are probably better tracks, in my personal opinion. I suppose I just thought that “Won’t Stay Lit” better represented my views on industrial music, or it was all just a matter of whim.

"Flesh Feeds Soul" will probably always be my favorite track by Hate Dept., combining excellent songwriting, interesting samples, good vocals, lyrics that speak to me personally (for whatever reason), and a varied structure that was more than the typical verse-chorus that most industrial-rock bands can write for.

There are certain albums you love from the moment you listen to them and consume voraciously, until the moment you become bored with it and can’t stomach the constant rotation anymore; Technical Difficulties may have skirted the edges of this phenomenon, but the Hate Dept. discography is hard-pressed to not stay in constant rotation for me. And Omnipresent, out of all those albums, still feels the most fresh and prescient, even 16 years later.

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Since I never mentioned it here and you never cared to know about it, I figured I’d talk a little bit about a “recent” music-y thing I did that renewed my interest in typing up bullshit on the internet for no one to read, mainly revolving around music I enjoy.

I was asked to partake of David Schock’s “Industrial 101” project, in which he attempted for some unknown reason to have a variety of industrial luminaries (musicians, DJ’s, and journalists) give a listing of their top 101 industrial tracks to make a “definitive” list. I’m not sure why I was asked. It could have been my years spent toiling away, thanklessly, on reviews for various websites, including ReGen, and writing for Industrial Nation. Or maybe it was just because I’m willing to type exceptionally long screeds at 60 WPM into the comment section of other people’s Facebook posts. Regardless, I drew his attention and was invited to participate.

"Industrial" as a genre, he pointed out, was left up to the listener’s discretion to define (something I never would have allowed; though I probably wouldn’t have bothered asking anyone about their opinions on the subject). This is probably what first drew my notice, as people were voting for bands like Lords Of Acid, which is only tangentially related to industrial music. Immediately, I had to weigh the notion of making any form of "definitive" list up against just putting on things I really enjoyed. Obviously the notion of anything about a list of 101 songs being "definitive" is fucking absurd and I knew that, no matter what I picked, there would be hundreds of equally-relevant, also-good tracks that didn’t make the arbitrary cut. Just the idea of trying to prevent any particular band from monopolizing some sort of "best industrial of all time" list was a task unto itself. I decided that lest I browbeat myself about it for weeks, I’d just attempt to best represent the songs I love and try to see them get a tiny modicum of notice amidst the noise of assholes putting cliched and terrible bullshit on their lists.

This process, of course, first began with procrastination. I spent several weeks not working on it while telling myself that I was because I was busily listening to music at my normal pace. Finally, I cracked open an Excel spreadsheet and got to work narrowing down my choices and then arranging them in some sort of order, which became more haphazard and less cogent the further I made it down the list.

The results (as well as an audio playlist of all 101 of my choices) are here for any to read, listen to, and enjoy (enjoyment permitting).

There you can read some other thoughts, details, and (more or less) a lot of what you just read above, though I believe I’m kidding myself to think anyone reads this shit.

When I finished working on it, I was energized, wanted to think and talk about music again, and really wanted to know what the final results would be to this little lark of Mr. Schock’s. Well, he took his sweet time compiling it, during which I lost interest. By the time the results finally arrived in a badly-formatted fashion, I no longer cared to find out that people lived up to the ultimate industrial cliche by voting for (by a wide margin) Front 242’s “Headhunter”. I never knew this was a cliche at all until Eric Gottesman from See Colin Slash (and now Everything Goes Cold) told me it was via mp3.com message circa 2000; I had never even listened to the damned song before that. To this day, I’ve still probably only heard the track 6 times or less and I damned sure wouldn’t consider putting any Front 242 on the list that didn’t come off of “06:21:03:11 Up Evil”.

All that aside, I still haven’t completely lost interest in writing about some of the albums I love and can’t currently think of a better place to put it (though Tumblr is made for posting text in about the same way that radio is made for watching movies). If you stick around, I might soon regale you with some tales about my favorites. And I promise I won’t list 101 of them.