The Atkins Plan
Despite working primarily in the niche of industrial music, Martin Atkins remains a conduit for collaboration like the Dave Grohls and Kanye Wests of the world. Recent significant offers of musical help resulted in Atkins’ evangelism for and production of underground Chinese rock, as well as ongoing efforts to educate bands on surviving a DIY lifestyle. But when the musicians turn the tables and help him out—yep, must be time for a new Pigface album.
Almost 20 years since Atkins started this revolving-door side project of Ministry, 6 might finally have perfected Pigface’s blend of dissonant experimentation, fuckitall attitude, and pop and dancefloor sensibilities. Thirty-five musicians (credited and uncredited) weave a dense, dark musical cloth that is by turns mad and approachable.
As on their past five studio albums, most Pigface players come from incarnations of other industrial and electronic acts, so it’s no surprise there are frequent resemblances to and improvements upon them. On 6 there are moments that go beyond mere echoes of old aggro-electro; witness “Electric Knives Club,” its classic despairing vocals spiraling down the musical scale over chugging guitars and disconnected phones.
For all their pedigree Pigface can’t solve the false, forced emotion of most industrial rock lyrics. “I Hate You in Real Life Too” simplifies even Marilyn Manson’s baseline misanthropy, while “Fight the Power” and “188.8.131.52” are sleazy throwaways in the tradition of My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult. Only among the crunchy loops of “Mercenary” and the processed whispers of Chant’s Bradley Bills on “Dulcimer” do we hear words of artful menace or words in appropriately menacing context.
This album really focuses on and is saved by the Atkins clan’s performance skills. The music of 6 is bracing if not embracing, from the blunt force of “Electric Knives Club” and “Mercenary” to its out-there final third with screwy drum loops over the prerequisite double-entendre song (“Work to Come”), digitized funk in what sounds like 7/4 time (“The Good the Bad the Druggly”), and nu-rave upended by mad tribal drumming and loose poetry (“Up and Down”).
The album gets topped off with some knowing humor: KMFDM members do a KMFDM-style theme song for Pigface, while camera samples throughout the album revisit Pigface’s 1990 Trent Reznor vehicle “Suck”—the only time this motley crew ever sniffed a hit. It’s obvious there aren’t too many cooks for the broth of 6, an album that restores faith in industrial music’s subversion, variety, power and fun.