A Gorgeous Festival of Sin
Electro-industrial outfit PIG is the brainchild of Raymond Watts and is primarily known for touring with Nine Inch Nails in the 1980s. Despite being based in the UK and employing mainly American collaborators, the band has found the majority of its success in Japan. These facts alone should give a sense of the left-field electronic sludge that Watts serves up with aplomb. However, another somewhat surprising element reveals itself within minutes of starting The Gospel: the quick-witted wisdom and intelligence of Monsieur Watts.
Watts’ gift for language and imagery are obvious from the first glance at the track list. Almost half of the eleven song titles are alliterative (“Found in Filth,” “Toleration or Truth,” “Missing the Mainline,” “Mercy Murder”). The singer’s gift for deconstructive wordplay arises in phrases as simple as the three-word “common creature comforts”—note the repeated first syllable (Common Creature Comforts) and the repeated second syllable (Common Creature Comforts). He also slips casual puns relating to pigs and heroin into several songs: everything porcine and morphine.
It is in the invocation of religious iconography, however, in which PIG’s cleverness truly shines through. Over an ominous bass line on lead single “The Diamond Sinner,” alternately smooth and glitchy, Watts positively serenades us with the knowledge that the “seven sins are yours to share.” (The proliferation of alliteration truly leads to exhilaration). Haunting, but not nearly so as “the revelation [that] we can’t be saved” being the reason that “the devil’s dancing upon your grave.”
PIG isn’t kidding about the dancing. Despite flirting with aggrotech and hardcore punk, at least half of the album’s songs will tug at your hips. Sitting is for church. “Viva Evil” is the most dance-friendly cut of the album. It features a surprisingly dub-like choppy synth that sounds like a castle wall being lobbed with arrows and barraged with a battering ram, over simple, catchy lyrics like “Evil wants what evil needs” and “Evil knows and evil glows.” For an industrial album, the dub influence is clear: the dark yet empowering “Missing the Mainline” features a distorted wub that resembles a jazz saxophonist attempting a live cover of Rusko.
The dance element of this poisonous, pernicious record isn’t that surprising. Despite the churning, sludge-soaked guitars and the gritty lyrics, most of the song structures are relatively upbeat and feature high BPMs. After all, Nine Inch Nails, the largest band most closely resembling PIG, was more of a jilted synthpop band on initial releases Pretty Hate Machine and The Downward Spiral. A more interesting question is why Watts devotes so much of his album to religion—it is named The Gospel, after all. “To be ironic” is an unsatisfying response. “To better understand the enemy” seems more plausible. Despite the worries of the post-Columbine media, bands like PIG are not actually endorsing violence, Satanism, or evil, but they sure as hell want to desecrate the straitjacket effect of dogma on public morality.
Come for the pulsing guitars harmonized with rippling bass lines and the seductively sinful lyrics. Stay for the glorious cornucopia of auditory experimentation. “Mercy Me” complements its punishing guitars with the kind of beautiful wind-chime synth that would attract hummingbirds and young couples. The silliness of the name “Drugzilla” takes a while to get over, but by the time the track reaches a part that sounds like a chopped and screwed version of Tom Morello playing an 8-bit guitar, all is forgiven. The BPM of the guitar solo is halved without warning, putting the listener in suspended animation for seven seconds before everything detonates. The Gospel is incredibly rewarding in its first listen yet gets even better with each successive repeat. It will make you rage. It will make you dance. It will make you think.
Essential tracks: The Diamond Sinners, Drugzilla, Viva Evil, I’m So Wrong