DB HOF NO. 81
The making of Ministry’s “The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste”
I distinctly recall the first time I heard Ministry’s The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste. In the late ’80s, for a teenager to have a car was a major deal. It symbolized intrepid mobility, but more than that, it was a rolling ghettoblaster on wheels—or, to use contemporary parlance, a P2P network with a gas pedal and (maybe) a sunroof. Of course, the like-minded without gravitated towards the like-minded with, for no other reason than to traverse from point A to point B quicker than by foot, bicycle or, in my case, skateboard. But inside friends’ cars, new music was shared, new sounds exposed, and horizons definitively broadened. I had no idea who Ministry were at the time. I liked what I liked—Metallica, Metal Church, Slayer, Testament and Sepultura—and fuck everything else. Until Ministry. The first Ministry song I heard was “Thieves.” Dumbfounded and awestruck, I knew they weren’t like anything in my pitiful but well-worn music collection.
With very few exceptions, thrash metal barely hit above the gut. It was predicated on wild, bared-teeth displays of aggression, and while select groups (Slayer, Metallica) understood and employed nuance, the conflation of punk and heavy metal typically resulted in polarization, with brilliant provocation at one end and stone-cold sterility at the other. That the appeal was predominantly blue-collar was hardly surprising. Conversely, industrial music had few successful attacks below the neck. The lack of recognizable structure, inhuman soundscapes and thematic over-repetition—as interpreted by a post-Beatles populace—was more cerebral than visceral. Abstraction is quality that attracts a specific sound connoisseur. Maybe not the white-collar office crowd, but perhaps kids with art-heavy backgrounds and of specific higher educations. Industrial music was, in many respects, their free jazz. That Ministry—first with predecessor The Land of Rape and Honey, then Taste, and continuing with breakout Psalm 69—were able to interpret, remold and expand upon both industrial music and thrash metal, and then somehow speak to art-music types, punks, longhairs, Goths and the disenfranchised in-between, speaks volumes of their craft.
Tracks like the pummeling “Thieves” (with its now-legendary drill sample), “Burning Inside,” “So What” and rap-metal hybrid “Test”—along with the decadent air of “Dream Song”—had unifying qualities. They were anthems by which the disparate could march and sing to, even if they barely understood what Ministry’s multitude of vocalists were positing via distorted, bullhorn-amplified screams. The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste may not have a hot rod built by Jesus in its ranks or a platinum certification by the RIAA, but it’s one of the most influential and iconic albums to be in the Hall.
To read the entire article, purchase this issue from our online store.