Friday, June 10, 2011

June 10: Ministry, "Jesus Built My Hotrod"

Artist: Ministry
Song: “Jesus Built My Hotrod”
Album: Psalm 69: The Way To Succeed And The Way To Suck Eggs
Year: 1991

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)

One of the biggest “traps” within the world of music is when one makes a pre-judgment on a bands’ sound simply based on their name or reputation.  This surely leads to many would-be fans missing out on some of the most amazingly unique bands in music history, and this has rarely been more true than in the case of the band Ministry.  Largely considered to be either “heavy metal” or “death metal,” the truth of the matter is, Ministry remain one of the most influential and innovative industrial-style rock bands in history.  Within their music, one can find traces of everything from rockabilly to punk to dance and pop, and it is this unique combination of sounds that makes them a group truly like no other.  In many ways a predecessor to the way in which other industrial acts were able to cross into the mainstream, there was a certain “fun evil” or mischief to their songs,  and to this day, many of their records remain just as exciting and fresh as they were upon their initial release.  Yet it was their 1992 release, Psalm 69: The Way To Succeed And The Way To Suck Eggs, that was not only their most anticipated able, but perhaps their best and most focused effort.  Bringing a brutal, yet controlled brand of high-octane rock and roll, the band proves just how perfectly that style fits with the rising “industrial” sound.  For good reason, most point to Ministry’s 1991 single, “Jesus Built My Hotrod” as their finest moment, as it displays the power and creativity that gave the status they retain to this day.

The moment that the music kicks in on “Jesus Built My Hotrod,” a number of more modern bands come instantly to mind, and one can quickly hear where groups like White Zombie took a great deal of influence.  The sheer amount of sound that comes forth throughout nearly all of Ministry’s music is absolutely shocking when one considers that in most cases, it is the product of just two musicians.  On “Jesus Built My Hotrod,” Al Jourgensen delivers one of his most punishing guitar lines, and it is the grinding aggression that it brings which makes it almost an overbearing sound.  Along with him, Mike Scaccia adds a second guitar to the mix, and the combined sound is without question one of the most unforgettable moments of heavy metal mastery to every be recorded.  Handling the entire rhythm section of the song, Paul Barker provides both bass guitar, as well as the mind-blowing programmed drums that run throughout “Jesus Built My Hotrod.”  It is the way in which he seamlessly blends together the rough and dark sounds of the drums with the guitar work that shows a brilliant balance between the industrial sound and psychobilly, and while other bands have attempted such a combination, none have done so with similar success.  The fact that so many different styles are at play throughout the song, as well as the almost overwhelming amount of energy, are the keys to making "Jesus Built My Hotrod" a truly special moment in the history of music.

However, while it is impossible to forget the sound of "Jesus Built My Hotrod," it is the vocal side of the song that not only separates it from other recordings, but from the rest of the Ministry catalog as well.  While in most cases, the vocals are provided solely by Al Jourgensen, on "Jesus Built My Hotrod," is actually performed by Butthole Surfers' frontman, Gibby Haynes.  It is his rather distinctive vocal style that pushes the song to an entirely new level, as the overall "mad" feel from the music is perfectly matched my the almost deranged sound of his voice.  The slight distortion placed over the vocal track only adds to the somewhat unsettling nature of Haynes' singing, and it is also the speed with which he sings that brings the entire song to the border of pure chaos.  As the finishing touch to this psychobilly masterpiece, the speed with which he delivers the lyrics give such a sense of movement that in some ways, the song is exhausting even to the listener.  Switching between almost scat-style singing and somewhat rap-style vocals, the lyrics on "Jesus Built My Hotrod" jump quickly between nonsense, somewhat dark, and outright lewd.  It is the way in which these varied themes and structures come together that enable Haynes' vocal track to become truly captivating, and it is his attitude that helps the song cross over into so many other audiences.

On so many levels, "Jesus Built My Hotrod" is a song that must be experienced firsthand to be properly appreciated.  There is so much going on both musically and lyrically, that it must be heard a number of times before all of the different elements can be balanced in the ear, and the entire work of art taken as a whole.  In many ways, the hardcore and industrial styles upon which the band was built almost take a secondary role on "Jesus Built My Hotrod," as it is the guitar of Al Jourgenson and Mike Scaccia that really steal the focus.  As they tear across the track, the destruction they leave in their path is unlike any other song in history, and it is the exchange between these sounds and the equally speedy programmed drums that make the song such a mind-blowing experience.  The almost looming thump of Paul Barkers bass, though slightly lost in the frenzied sound, adds the ideal backbone to the track, and one would be hard pressed to find another song that is even remotely similar in any aspect.  The fact that Gibby Haynes is able to seamlessly move into the bands' sound and appear as if he'd been a part of Ministry from the start is a testament to the talents of the entire musical team, and one can easily argue that it is the change in vocal sounds that enabled the song to rise so far above the rest of the bands' catalog.  Whether it is these vocals, or any of the wild music, there is simply no getting around the fact that Ministry achieved a completely unique level of musical brilliance on their 1991 single, "Jesus Built My Hotrod."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It´s even more amazing how good this song is when you know what actually took place ;-)
Gibby never sings, he was dead drunk and just blabbed into the mike for 15min. It took Al two weeks to cut together words and make it sound like someone is singing ;-)

Read the whole story behind the son in Al´s book or at this site: