MTV’s once golden empire has long been reduced to a mere polished yellowing turd. Which isn’t much in the way of a revelation, but it’s my clever way of introducing the review. It started off so promising back in 1981, when nobody really knew what they were doing, but more than made up for any misreads with unbridled enthusiasm. And thanks to a college circuit that was beginning to churn out the bucks, they had a lot of good music to share, which gave you insta-cred back in the dark pre-Napster era.
But all good things must come to an end, by which I mean that all creative output eventually gets filtered through The Corporation, often re-emerging as something mostly inhuman (Lady Gaga, Nicky Minaj, Ke$ha, Adam Lambert), little happening beneath the surface other than botox poisoning and cow-tissue injections — but also because corporations AREN’T REALLY PEOPLE.
But hell, the United States limped its way into the 1970s before the American Dream completely came out of the closet as fiction, propped up by little more than Richard Nixon and “Mr. Ed” reruns. Then Dickhead packed up his angoras and tape recorders, and headed back to Oz, leaving Gerald Ford to sign the ownership papers over to the People’s Republic of China.
I’ve always believed that — like a one-two punch — MTV’s collapse began with the realization in 1993 that “The Real World” would last longer than one season; the follow-through coming a year later with Kurt Cobain’s suicide, exposing the grunge gravy train for the dog and pony show that it was, egg-faced network big wigs from that point on creating their own reality to eliminate the element of chance.
Which is a long way to get to my Skinny Puppy review. But relevant, because it was thanks to the MTV program, “120 Minutes,” that I saw a video for Puppy’s song, “Stairs and Flowers,” in late 1986. The network had launched the 2-hour late-night weekly program in March of that year, featuring songs that were doing well on the college charts. I can also thank the show for introducing me to the likes of Husker Du, The Replacements and Smashing Pumpkins before they became household names.
I quickly went out and bought the album with “Stairs and Flowers,” Puppy’s wonderfully titled, “Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse.” Living in my very Christian home at the time, it was the sort of album I could only listen to with headphones on, which made it MUCH MORE INTENSE. So intense, in fact, that by the time the second song, “God’s Gift (Maggot),” rolled around, I got scared and had to turn it off. I didn’t get the courage to listen to the album again until two years later, after I’d tried LSD. At which time, it became essential listening, and I quickly bought up the rest of the band’s catalog.
“God’s Gift” has been a favorite since my early-’90s industrial rock conversion. It’s also about as sludgy and provocative as electronic music ever got before Ministry opened the floodgates with “The Land of Rape and Honey” in 1988. By the way, many ecologists and health specialists probably do consider maggots to be a gift from our creator, but the fact that Puppy’s song contains references to eye sockets makes it a safe bet the band mates just happened to be watching a lot of old Vincent Price movies.