[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
You knew it was coming. Another plundering of the no-doubt mammoth Foetus vaults, which by this point must have become a behemoth to manage. Yet somehow, JG Thirlwell gets by doing it just fine. These tunes are all from the recent ‘Hide’ album sessions and to call them outtakes would be the biggest mistake you could make. There’s no cutting room floor scraps comprising this album, oh no, some of what is on here eclipses what got on the record without even trying. But to understand what ‘Soak’ is all about, you have to have a firmer understanding of the parent release, which at the time it came out was not mentioned or covered much in the press.
You see, ‘Hide’ was an album more diverse than any Foetus had yet made. The influences of both Manorexia and his scoring of the Venture Bros. cartoon clearly could be heard but even with all of that, the mercurial big band influences still mixed it up with the rough and tumble take on rock he’s always had. To call that one a boiling cauldron would be an understatement, ‘Hide’ was pretty much Thirlwell taking the Foetus manifesto to the museum, framing it with a gilded, golden border and then sneaking back out under the cover of darkness, leaving it to people’s own curiosity with regard to any kind of investigation.
‘Soak’ not only carries on in this manner, it expands upon the misanthropic mindset of our highly regarded orchestrator. The maestro’s up at the bandstand and he’s got everyone whipped up into a delirious frenzy they just don’t know how to stop. Horns howl, strings swoop in and out like errant rodents gouging their way through a wheel of pristine Swiss cheese; JG stalks through these works, growling out some remarkable chaos. Like the ad said back in the day: this ain’t no sippin’ tea. Yet for having such a frothing sea of musical decimation going on there are those calm, tension laden moments which are the only interludes we get. Treasure them, they don’t last long. Before you know it, all hell is breaking loose once again and some kind of bludgeoned gospel influence is limping to the exit door trying to make a break for it.
Because this is a Foetus album, aggression is given a greater amount of space to play around in. If you think muscular drums and bombastic percussion were reserved only for what he’s done in the past, you’re going to be blown out of your chair. Is he still using the tape and razor approach at this stage? I’m sure it still is getting dragged out kicking and screaming to add some of the accents on here, Thirlwell’s work is just too hands-on for it not to be. The idea that this kind of mania came to life purely on a computer screen I wouldn’t buy for all the whiskey in Ireland. For a guy who always looks so calm and sedate when performing live these days, his subconscious is still bordering on explosive. So much raw, brutish power is contained on ‘Soak’! He’s in his 50s by the way, and he’s still composing this kind of madness, showing no signs of slowing down.
WHAT ELSE ARE YOU HIDING.
From his epic, sprawling liner notes taken from a novella he wrote in Helsinki jail back in 1985 for ‘Nail’ to an oeuvre of songs done with a panache only he could pull off: JG Thirlwell has only been getting better with age. He’s had his misfires (who hasn’t) but in the final analysis what he does as an artist is easily unique. Undeniably cool. So very very groovy. The caress of a clinched fist going upside your head.
Foetus – Soak
Ectopic Ents., ECT ENTS 035