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Skinny Puppy (live)

A foggy Skinny Puppy emerge...(click for larger image)The Forum, London
19 July 2004

It’s a point that’s already been made, I’m sure, but there’s at least something to be said for the otherwise abhorrent War Against Terror. Just look, or rather listen, to what’s going on. As well as the politicisation of once-apathetic masses, the already-politicised but seldom heard of Industrial Rock giants are all coming out to the barricades to chuck stuff. See the headlines – “NEW MINISTRY ALBUM NOT SHIT SHOCKER!”, “KMFDM INVADE BRITAIN AGAIN” and now even “SKINNY PUPPY FINALLY RETURN TO LONDON”.

Having bought tickets for their last (cancelled) London gig back in, ooh, 1990 or thereabouts, I have to say I was really quite excited about this, and like an excitable schoolgirl (albeit one who was into anguished shrieks and cut-up beats) prepared myself for the occasion with a couple of weeks of Skinny Puppy overload- not just the new album, The Greater Wrong Of The Right, but all the fuckers. By the time the gig came, 25 hours without sleep and a day (beginning at 7am) spent in the pub, I was, as they say (or used to anyway) well up for it. And they didn’t disappoint. Opening with the spooky Hammer-esque (the movies, not the prancing loon in the novelty trousers) organ sound from “Ownsizer”, they took the stage. In the form of a big fuck off cloud of smoke. From the smoke gradually emerged the twin prongs of a headless double-necked guitar and a bald head, and the show was on. But where the fuck was Ogre? You could hear him hissing and growling, but the guy himself? Nowhere to be seen. and even bright lights keep them obscured...(click for larger image)

Until a figure took the stage, clad in what can only be described as a Big Bird suit by way of Clive Barker, and proceeded to totally captivate. (If you’re reading this and are very young, you may prefer it if I say we were all owned by his m4d 5k1772, but I’m not going to, and anyway, shouldn’t you be in school?) Gradually, over the course of the gig, the birdsuit/armour/whatever was ripped off, by which time the bloodsmeared and sweaty Ogre looked every bit as scary as he had when he came on. The set itself was pretty much perfect (except WHERE THE FUCK WAS “ASSIMILATE”???)- a pretty decent mix of stuff off the new album and old classics which, considering the relatively “clean”-sounding production on Greater Wrong, sat pretty well together. Well, when I say “sat pretty well,” I imagined they were actually fighting and stuff, but whatever, it worked.

“VX Gas Attack” was, of course, accompanied by a video projection of Bush and the latest Gulf War (do you see? Do you? Do you SEE???), causing me to reflect that if I’d only invested in a company dealing with stock video footage at the start of the year, I’d be minted by now. But the top moment for me was “Worlock”- the thing that always set Skinny Puppy apart from their peers was that while everyone else was being all military, they got all fucked-up and psychedelic (the legacy of which can be heard in recent Download output or indeed in cEvin Key‘s Tear Garden project with Edward Ka-Spel), so their (compulsory, back in the day) Manson moment was always something a little more than others’ appropriations of mass-murderer chic. And they still don’t disappoint- the Vocoded chorus sounds every bit as ethereal and sad as it once did, and Ogre’s still got what it takes to emote through one.

The (fairly long) set passed surprisingly quickly for such a catalogue of anguish, pain and tortured screams, making the whole the equivalent of a damn good horror movie (which for some reason made me think how wonderful it’d be for Skinny Puppy to collaborate on an audiovisual project with the guy who does Tool‘s videos and back-projections). However, like many good horror movies (including the Download-soundtracked- at one stage, at least; I haven’t seen the finished cut yet- Charlie’s Family) the effect was mildly spoiled by a misjudged final scene- in this case, one in which Ogre, bloodied but unbowed, turned his gladiatorial form to the very audience he’d be screaming at for the last 90 minutes, and said “thank you London and goodnight.” I know Canadians are famed for their politeness, and a very nice thing it is too, but… surely there can be exceptions?

-DeuTeronEMU 90210 in cOnvulSHUNs-

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