Weapon, Skinny Puppy‘s twelfth studio album and the latest entry in a catalogue going back more than thirty years, doesn’t really fuck about. Tangentially, at least, it’s all about guns. Apparently. Of course, being Skinny Puppy, it’s a mish-mash of ranting, nursery rhyming, shouting, screaming – and irritating spelling and capitalisation, all delivered over, or rather in the midst of, their trademark dancefloor-friendly beats, squirts, whooshes and bleeps. And you wouldn’t want it any other way. Or I wouldn’t, at any rate.And it’s very recognisably Skinny Puppy from the outset, as “wornin’” piles in with its ’80s synth sounds and hard beat rhythm section, blips and glitches flying off in all directions as Ogre growls and scrapes his anguished way through the middle. It’s a pretty good idea of what to expect, and simultaneously knocks aside all those pretenders who you kind of THINK sound just like Skinny Puppy, but only when you’re not actually listening to Skinny Puppy at the time (*cough* /wumpscut/ *cough*). You’d think, given the amount of people who’ve made careers out of imitating Skinny Puppy, that Skinny Puppy were actually quite easy to imitate, but there’s an alchemy to their music that somehow makes it more than the sum of its parts, and makes it very definitely Skinny Puppy – and nobody else.
“SCREW IT! SCREW IT! SCREW IT!” howls Ogre, as “saLvo” drives on and on, and it’s like the Singularity has occurred, only the killer cyborgs have taken their cue from YouTube videos of old New Romantic hits and war atrocity footage instead of, as we all know will ACTUALLY happen, videos of kittens and anime porn. And, being robots, they’ve managed not to fall into the trap that so many of Skinny Puppy’s imitators did, of thinking that a reliance on dark imagery means you have to cross the line into flirting with fascism.Their shock factor, coupled with the ballsy immediacy of their dancier numbers, tends to make people forget how much depth there is to a Skinny Puppy track, but as always there’s a lot going on, the cyberpunk/horror aesthetic being just one prong of an attack that is ultimately a psychedelic one, Cevin Key‘s signature sound being no less creative or multilayered when he’s working with Puppy than it ever was with Download, or even when playing as The Tear Garden with Edward Ka-Spel of The Legendary Pink Dots. From the anthemic “solvent” to the flat-out electronic body music of “paragUn”, Skinny Puppy manage the almost-unheard-of-for-an-electronic-band trick of making everything sound utterly organic; an immense machine made as much of meat as metal. Few since The Birthday Party have managed to make the precise sound so near-shambolic and vice-versa, and almost none have managed to make it sound so transcendent at the same time.
This is music for people who thought the crypto-Fascist zen bullshit and slow-motion kung fu in the Matrix movies was just getting in the way of the mechanoid apocalypse. It’s huge yet claustrophobic, epic yet intimate, mechanised yet piercingly emotional. It’s an album of contradictions, which is fitting for the worlds finest industrial environmentalists.
As Nathan Barley would say, “it’s well weapon”. (Sorry).
-Justin Farrington used to be Deuteronemu 90210 back in the day-