Albums Revisited: Skinny Puppy’s Cleanse, Fold and Manipulate at 30–full of addictive mixtures and living on fear
By Peter Marks
Where it all changed and where their heaviest era began. There’s a widely held view that Skinny Puppy did not reach their full potential until 1988’s ‘VivisectVI’ and I’m more than happy to dispel this notion; freshman year in 1987 had quite a few notable albums but none were as iconic or emblematic as what the Dog put out. While many of my peers were busily trying to get laid or working on their oh so precious used cars I was locked away with my Walkman and this little beauty.
With the new guy, Dwayne Goettel, in tow Nivek Ogre and cEvin Key moved well beyond their earlier works, displaying greater technological ability than previously suspected; they looked inward and did not allow their audience to be sheltered in any way whatsoever. With a single named “Addiction” it was not much of a stretch to understand what they’d chosen to investigate this time around: paranoia, psychosis and the way in which humanity as a whole are so happily manipulated by those who pull the strings. There were topical subjects addressed also, “First Aid” being the most obvious followed closely by “Anger”.
This was a most bizarre record back then in it that didn’t need slick videos or slogans, rather it relied on the emotional connection established with the user to get its messages across… and just what were those, you ask?
Ogre’s words were grim all throughout, offering little consolation and no hope for the future. Key and Goettel sealed the listener’s fate by collaboratively composing music which I’d say demonstrated some of the first identifiable hallmarks of the sound Skinny Puppy defined as their own. Songs such as “Tear or Beat”, “Deep Down Trauma Hounds” and “Shadow Cast” could belong to no other group on the planet. Even now when I play this record the hairs on my neck stand on end, particularly when “Draining Faces” or “The Mourn” come out to play. “Little did I know at the time those instrumental tracks were mere hints of what was to come later on down the line via ‘The Infidel’ by their side project Doubting Thomas.”
Though universally lauded now, the aforementioned ‘Addiction’ single was no instant classic when released. Club staple though it may have become later on, there was solid resistance to it then; most hadn’t heard of this Adrian Sherwood guy who provided the remixes and who the hell was Greg Reely? These names would later on grow in prominence for Puppy folk and gradually after cramming it down the throats of my friends it gained acceptance, what’s more I began to see the first truly rabid fans of this band emerging.
Whether we were into what the band were doing at such young ages or just too terrified to let go still isn’t clear to me but what a ride it’s been.
For those of us who had (and still have) no use for our parent’s music ‘Cleanse, Fold and Manipulate’ came from out of nowhere and allowed us some musical roots of our own. You couldn’t draw parallels to anyone else out there and despite all the haughty proclamations from our elders that listening to this sort of thing was “just a phase” three decades later the majority of us are STILL turning their particular brand of ‘audio sculpture’ up as loud as possible. Those rhythms, that synthesis and of course, the voice. Three elements working in concert to create a vision of present and future times which no one in their right mind would want to live in and yet in 2017 here we are.
In a word: prophetic.
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