A mixed bag of windows into the past
There’s an odd issue that comes up when talking about compilation albums. This is music that has been talked about and dissected previously. In essence, there’s little value to commenting directly on the music itself. Or is there? As time moves forward we get an even stronger sense of context, the avant-garde becomes the influential, the misunderstood artist a blueprint for the next generation of pop. INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT: The Story of Wax Trax! Records showcases the interesting past of industrial records, and while it’s not always pretty it is often enlightening.
As it is presented the album is somewhat of a mixed bag. Not every song really connects, tracks like “Me and My Ding-Dong” and “Your God is Dead” are weirdly flat and uninteresting. But for each of those, there is another track like “A Daisy Chain,” “Tonight We Murder,” or “Vogue” which manage to take the inherent excesses of industrial without allowing them to become completely pastiche. These are the moments when the album shines most as something that is listenable, but there are other moments ripe for analysis.
Of course not everything ages gracefully. And it’s upsettingly apparent how some of these artists served as inspiration for some of the more ill-advised musical movements of the ’90s. Industrial saddeningly contains the bones of genres like nu-metal and post-grunge, movements full of people who didn’t get the inside jokes of industrial and took them entirely at face value. It may be unfair to indict this whole genre based on the future actions of people who heard their music, but it undoubtedly colors the way that people look back on this era and style of music.
If you’re able to divorce yourself from what these songs and sounds led to, you’ll have a damn good walk down memory lane. If you can’t pull that off, it may be a bit more of a hike than a stroll. But when it feels dark it’s good to remember that those sounds aren’t the only ones that came out of this movement. There’s a sprawling world of avant-garde, groups like The Body, Uniform, Daughters, and numerous others, that have carried the torch forward in new and terrifying ways. The night is dark and full of terrors, it just turns out that some are more fun than others.