Foetus

Picture of Foetus

Hole

Foetus - Hole ©1984 Thirsty Ear
1. Clothes Hoist
2. Lust For Death
3. I'll Meet You In Poland Baby
4. Hot Horse
5. Sick Man
6. Street Of Shame
7. Satan Place
8. White Knuckles
9. Water Torture
10. Cold Day In Hell

Having finally shedded at least some of the rather unintentional "cuteness" factor of his first two releases (Ache and Deaf, both of which suffered from lack of access to a good studio and technology, but hey, it was the early 80s...what do you really expect?), JG Thirlwell unleashed his first stateside album, Hole, upon an unsuspecting world. This album is proof that the boy spent far too much time in studio isolation and the demons and psychological damage were captured on tape for all the world to see. Hole runs the stylistic gamut with reckless abandon, though never losing sight of Thirlwell's apocalyptic vision. With influence and genre being blended together into a murky soup, it's quite hard to say where Thirlwell mined his ideas for Hole. Regardless, the album is a fairly successful album.

Of the highlights, you can look first to the hilariously warped surf'n'roll of "Satan Place", which puts a new spin on the Beach Boys and the Trashmen. Creepy hillbilly sexual innuendo drips from "Hot Horse" like a bad venereal disease while the minimalistic "I'll Meet You In Poland Baby" gives you a peek into the betrayal of Stalin by Hitler in World War II. "Street of Shame" is another stark portrayal of a man hitting rock bottom, displaying Thirlwell's constant knack for lyrically painting the most bleak portrait of mankind.

While Hole is definitely a good time, there still is that occasional realization that Thirlwell still was unable to fully realize his music, given the somewhat thin sound on the album. Still more developed than the previous two releases but not nearly the monster of Nail, Hole still gets a hearty two mutilated thumbs up for being quite clever and imaginative, regardless of some its minor shortcomings.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/2000

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Nail

Foetus - Nail ©1984 Thirsty Ear
1. Theme From Pigdom Come
2. The Throne Of Agony
3. !
4. Pigswill
5. Descent Into The Inferno
6. Enter The Exterminator
7. DI-1-9026
8. The Overture From Pigdom Come
9. Private War
10. Anything (viva!)

Having continually improved his actual recording techniques over the course of three bizarre and outright weird albums, Jim "Foetus" Thirlwell finally hit his stride on Nail. Combining a sense of movie soundtracks with his definite twisted mentality of violence and audio terror, Nail has a very strong, lush sound and more unifying theme than previous albums. There is still the rhythmic percussive assault but it is very much filled out with the sounds of an "orchestra" and tends to allow the songs to move much more smoothly. Naturally Thirlwell's vicious ranting is still in full force throughout the album. In fact, the liner notes contain a lengthy diatribe that suggests that someone was a bit pissy when he wrote it, not to mention unbalanced. Nail features a couple exceptionally fun rants: "DI-1-9026" is aggressive and threatening while "Anything (viva!)" is a mantra of violence and hatred. Balanced with "Theme From Pigdom Come" and "The Overture From Pigdom Come", the hostility is tempered with a bit of calm and warmth, which of course increases the weirdness factor of the album on a whole. Given the state of mind of Nail, this album can be both a bit uncomfortable yet compelling throughout. With a record such as this, the only thing you can do is wade right into the raging river and swim for your life. Definitely an aural treat.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/2000

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Thaw

Foetus - Thaw ©1988 Self Immolation/Some Bizarre
1. Don't Hide It Provide It
2. Asbestos
3. Fin
4. English Faggot/nothin Man
5. Hauss-oh-fah
6. Fratricide Pastorale
7. The Dipsomaniac Kiss
8. Barbedwire Tumbleweed
9. ¡Chingada!
10. A Prayer For My Death

Continuing in the ever-evolving role of Foetus, Jim Thirlwell cranked things up considerably for Thaw. The album retains much of the Thirlwell's tendency to write stuff as though it were for a horror movie soundtrack as well as shows much stronger percussion sensibility. As a result, Thaw is both invigorating and creepy. The music has a very large degree of painstakingly arranged layers and composition. The one drawback is that the production renders the music just a bit thinner than it deserves, but it's a flaw that is quite easy to overlook.

The album tends to alternate between actual songs and interludes. The opener is a fierce declaration of hostility while the rising climax of "English Faggot/Nothin' Man" is disturbing yet satisfying. "Hauss-on-Fah" comes across as something more representative of his Nail period. "Chingada!" is a multilayered, dense arrangement that has both movie soundtrack and middle eastern influences. The closer "A Prayer for my Death" is one of the best straightforward tracks Thirlwell has ever written. One of the most notable things about Thaw on a whole is that it doesn't have some of that tongue-in-cheek feeling of his earlier albums. Thaw contains an album length, macabre vibe that is sustained nearly throughout. His compositional qualities, including the multi-instrumental abilities, are excellent. Even at his most over the top moments, Thaw is a very convincing album.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/2000

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Sink

Foetus - Sink ©1990 Wax Trax!
1. Bedrock
2. Ramrod
3. Boxhead
4. Lilith
5. Shut
6. Diabolus In Musica
7. Smut
8. Sick Minutes
9. Rattlesnake Insurance
10. Himmelfahrts- Transport/Primordial Industry
11. Spit On The Griddle (The Drowning Of G. Walhof)
12. Anxiety Attack
13. Baphomet
14. The Only Good Christian Is A Dead Christian
15. Halo Flamin Lead
16. OKFM
17. Catastrophe Crunch
18. Wash It All Off
19. Today I Started Slogging Again
20. Calamity Crush

Acting not quite as a greatest hits, but more of a companion disc, Sink compiles much of Foetus' 80s madness onto one handy, lengthy CD. The sources for these twenty tracks range from various EPs, alternate versions of songs and previously unreleased material, giving the Foetus fan a wide overview of Jim Thirlwell's utter insanity. The highlight of this disc are the tracks from "Lilith" to "Spit on the Griddle", which should have been the soundtrack to the scariest film of the decade. The tracks segue together in a way that almost makes it a continuous song from one end to the other, although the songs are derived from a multitude of sources. Thirlwell shows great compositional skill in creating dynamic, living, breathing pieces that ultimately will scare even the most fearless of listeners. The rest of the CD is made up of various Thirlwell insanity, with such lovely pieces as "Dead Christian", the grooving "Wash It All Off" (one of his best early songs), a couple takes on the "Calimity Crush" and "Today I Started Slogging Again".

With the album acting as a great sampling of Thirlwell's tendencies to create lounge/jazz/industrial batterings as well as his ability to create instrumental music that should be a soundtrack to some major film, Sink is a phenomenal success and purchase for any fan of Foetus. Coupled with 1992's double live release, Male, one can get both the best of Thirlwell's studio releases and harder to find material.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/2001

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Male

Foetus - Male ©1992 Big Cat Records
1. Free James Brown
2. Fin
3. Hot Horse
4. English Faggot
5. Faith Healer
6. Honey I'm Home
7. Butterfly Potion
8. I'll Meet You In Poland Baby
9. Anything (viva!)
10. Death Rape 2000
11. Puppet Dude
12. Stumbo
13. Someone Drowned In My Pool
14. Behemoth
15. Your Salvation

The two CD live Male is one of the most defining moments for JG Thirlwell's long running Foetus project. Featuring fifteen tracks from all eras of his career, including the Wiseblood project and a couple covers, Male utterly demolishes and obliterates what Foetus had originally done in the studio. All the songs benefit greatly from the live backing band and allow Thirlwell (credited as "Clint Ruin" for this performance) to front the band with his twisted stage persona. Whereas some of the original studio creations were often rudimentary or quaint, the live performance utterly reinvents the sound and actually creates the intended mood and atmosphere. "I'll Meet You in Poland Baby" is one such example where the original version on Hole is greatly lacking. The live band, with the very tense violin adding a new sense of drama, takes this song and turns it into a chilling vision of Europe's political showdown in World War II. "English Faggot" is another greatly improved song that rises in terrifying crescendos of sound and percussion. Throughout the entire lengthy recording, Thirlwell rants and uses his menacing snarl very well. Whether he is a demented hillbilly searching for "Hot Horse" in the city or playing the part of a twisted lounge singer in "Someone Drowned in My Pool", Thirlwell creates excellent character sketches of people you hopefully will never meet in your own life.

Overall Male may be one of the best launching points for anyone interested in the ever shifting universe of Foetus. Since it contains selections from most of his recording career as well as excellent reinterpretations, the album is something that will entice a new listener and not frighten.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/2000

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Gash

Foetus - Gash ©1995 Columbia
1. Mortgage
2. Mighty Whity
3. Friend Or Foe
4. Hammer Falls
5. Downfall
6. Take It Outside Godboy
7. Verklemmt
8. They Are Not So True
9. Slung
10. Steal Your Life Away
11. Mutapump
12. See Ya Later

Thirlwell's major label debut (and probably the only one that will be on a major as this just didn't go over with the NIN crowd). Some of the stuff here is so busy and harsh that it's difficult to assimilate. Other tracks, such as the keyboard driven "They Are Not So True" or the dead on "Verklemmt" are quite good. The most powerful tracks are the eleven minute big band swing of "Slung" and the horns-enhanced "Mutapump" which harness a whole new style for Thirlwell. The latter is perhaps the most incredible Foetus track yet. This album is best suited for headphones where you can pick out all the nuances of the packed Thirlwell production. An effort worth every moment spent working to appreciate.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/1997

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York

Foetus - York ©1997 Thirsty Ear
1. Black Adonis
2. Crumpled City
3. Puddlin' Doorway
4. Egomaniacs With Insecurity Problems
5. Arschficken

Normally, when J.G. "Foetus" Thirlwell releases an album, I bow most deeply at the altar of Foetus. After all, his fifteen plus years in the art of aural terrorism have made him a virtual legend in the neo-industrial field, with ecclectic albums such as Hole, Thaw, and recently Gash all paving the way. Perhaps significantly, Thirlwell has always chosen to isolate himself in the studio to create these masterpieces.

For York, J.G. assembled a cast of New York's most notable no-wave artists from various groups (Cop Shoot Cop, Pussy Galore, to name a couple...and of course Lydia Lunch) giving the metronomes and various improvision pieces to lend talent while he and Ms. Lunch narrate factual prose about their decadent neighborhood. Very lofty ambitions, but it fails to captivate the listener the way an album with the Foetus tag should. Lunch rambles on and on, but frankly she's detracting to the music. Musically, it's a spiffy jam session with serious jazz leanings, but nothing here is worth releasing and charging fans money over.

The only crowd who might appreciate this will be the anti-rock types. The rest of us should wait for the next proper Foetus release.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/1997

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Violent Silence/Flesh Volcano Split With Marc Almond

Foetus - Violent Silence/Flesh Volcano Split With Marc Almond ©1997 Some Bizarre
1. Universal Cess Pool
2. Bruise N Chain
3. Flesh Volcano (slut)
4. Blood Tide
5. Healthy As Hate
6. Things You Love For Me
7. Body Unknown
8. Unborn Stillborn

In 1987, a twelve inch single featuring a collaboration between Clint Ruin (a.k.a. Foetus) and Marc Almond was released. Titled Flesh Volcano, the single featured three tracks of creepy soundtrack-ish music. In 1997, Some Bizarre saw fit to reissue the songs on CD but that is where the story gets confusing. Rather than only feature the two's collaborative efforts, the majority of the CD is Marc Almond's solo material, from the Violent Silence EP, recorded in 1984. Another reissue on Thirsty Ear was apparently released in 1998 and features more material from Foetus and Marc Almond working together. However, since the Some Bizarre release is what I have on hand, this is the one we'll discuss today.

The three tracks featuring the pair are probably familiar to anyone who has the Foetus Sink compilation album. Although the versions here are a bit different (I believe the Sink versions lack Almond's vocals and are titled differently), they are still quite impressive pieces of work. The music is among the creepiest Jim Thirlwell has written, sounding like a true horror show. Almond's vocals are nearly afterthoughts to the powerful music.

On the Violent Silence portion of the CD, Marc Almond gets to shine with his music. Written primarily around the piano and his haunting, forlorn voice, the five tracks are extremely impressive and have a way of nestling around brain lobes, forcing you listen again and again. There is a certain amount of subtle orchestration underscoring the songs, creating vast depth. "Healthy as Hate", despite its morose title, is absolutely gorgeous in its epic, moving nature. There are some production issues with Almond's vocals, but overall, Violent Silence is entirely impressive and good enough to encourage more exploration of his solo material.

So despite the mystifying track selection, this reissue is worthwhile in allowing people to hear the original Foetus/Almond collaboration as well as let Almond display his own impressive talent. It probably would behoove me to search out the other reissued version to hear more of their collaboration, but for now this will more than suffice.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 09/2002

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Null/Void

Foetus - Null/Void ©1997 Cleopatra
1. Verklemmt (vid Mix)
2. Be Thankful
3. Verklemmt (protecto Mix)
4. Butter
5. Into The Light
6. Verklemmt (queef Mix)
7. Friend Or Foe
8. Incesticide
9. See Dick Run
10. Flux
11. Friend Or Foe (unhugged Mix)
12. Iris Evergreen

When Jim "Foetus" Thirlwell signed to Columbia back in '94 or so, there were supposed to be a couple companion singles released along with Gash called Null and Void. While Gash was readily available (and eventually ended up in nearly every single used CD store in existence), the two EPs were much harder to find. Null did show up from time to time, but Void was impossible to find. Obviously Columbia Records had high hopes that Foetus would somehow become the next Nine Inch Nails, but alas that wasn't going to happen. Fortunately for Foetus fans, Cleopatra re-released these two EPs in one handy double digipack. Both discs feature tracks from Gash both in studio and remixed form. Many of the unreleased tracks here are simply Gash outtakes and feature the same stylistic sound of that album. I personally think Thirlwell was onto something with his dense, chaotic "big-band-gone-bad" wall of sound from that era. "Verklemmt" and "Friend or Foe" are two of the more accessible songs, but they're still busy and best listened to with a pair of good headphones. Thirlwell has always been one to plug a lot of information into his music. If you have Gash, this digipack is highly recommended as a companion.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/1999

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Flow

Foetus - Flow ©2001 Thirsty Ear
1. Quick Fix
2. Cirrhosis Of The Heart
3. Mandelay
4. Grace Of God
5. The Need Machine
6. Suspect
7. Someone Who Cares
8. Heuldoch 7B
9. Victim Or Victor?
10. Shun
11. Kreibabe

Although Jim Thirlwell has been far from inactive for the last few years, it's been quite some time since a proper Foetus release. His last studio effort (not counting the collaborative experimental York in 1997) was the misunderstood and underappreciated major label debacle, Gash. Thirlwell has been fairly low profile since the following tour, occasionally surfacing as a DJ in various clubs. But the wait for a new release is finally over and now we have on our hands yet another four letter title, Flow, complete with Rocky and Bullwinkle lettering for the album's cover art.

Although Thirlwell is often billed as "The Godfather of Industrial", by myself included, Flow demonstrates his knowledge of music is far beyond distorted noise, danceable beats and processed vocals. As with Gash, Flow covers a wide spectrum of music, including lounge, big band, swing and much, much more. Thirlwell's bombastic sensibilities coexist with the layers of sounds to create a barrage of sound. Unlike Gash, Flow has a considerable amount of breathing room, even on the more clustered songs. Thirlwell uses these opportunities to occasionally croon, such as "Cirrhosis" of the heart, as well as offer his typical "voice of the apocalypse" on other tracks. His lyrics are often amusing plays on dry platitudes, cliches and dry metaphors. But on a whole, his singing has never been better or more diverse. The arrangements on the album are akin to his last studio release, complete with horn sections and other instrumentation.

Flow will certainly not convince anyone about Foetus' grand musical vision if they weren't already a fan. It's also too bad that so many people missed the boat with Gash. This album will do little put Thirlwell at the forefront of truly innovative studio music, but for the longtime fans, this album will do much to tide them over. This album can rest comfortably alongside any of his best known records.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/2001

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