Record Review: Ministry – With Sympathy

Arista | US | CD | 1987 | ARCD 8016,

Arista | US | CD | 1987 | ARCD 8016,

Ministry – With Sympathy US CD [1987]

  1. Effigy [I’m Not An]
  2. Revenge
  3. I Wanted To Tell Her
  4. Work For Love
  5. Here We Go
  6. What He Say
  7. Say You’re Sorry
  8. Should Have Known Better
  9. She’s Got A Cause

I remember hearing Ministry for the first time when the video for “Revenge” got a brief flourish of MTV airplay. I liked the, what we’d now call ‘darkwave,‘ undercurrent to the synthpop. The album was part of the Arista “new artist” series so it could be had for a $6.98 list. At the store I frequented, that was a dollar under list. In those innocent days, we’d approach this album like the solid contender that it was. In the intervening 33 years, following the heroin-soaked path that Al Jourgensen had followed into the developing industrial music scene and his place of primacy in it, it’s become regarded as an embarrassing sell out by now-principled artist. I’m here to call BS on that notion. The only embarrassing thing about this CD was the faux-British accent that Jourgensen affects on it.

At the time the production of Ian Taylor and Vince Ely marked this as being touched by the Psychedelic Furs touch, and there was a darkness to the emotional mood here similar to that of early Furs, but the sound was light and airy in comparison. The synths were used with a light touch and the drum programming and drums were very club-centric for the time period. “Effigy” was quite an opener, using striking victimization imagery and a hostile delivery to hammer its point across. One can almost imagine Jourgensen writing and performing this one six years later on a full blown album of Ministry “ogre music.” But I’m so much happier that I can listen to this song without needing to be in the “right mood” to hear a guy singing through a distortion pedal. Actually, after the age of let’s say, 26, there is never a “right mood” for that sort of hijinx!

The one-two punch of “Revenge” coming immediately afterward suggests that the band might have been the “evil Cars.” The sonic palette used was similar to the hi-tech sound of the Boston titans. It was even recorded at Syncro Sound; their studio and Greg Hawkes was name-checked for equipment in the credits, so Jourgensen was probably using some of his synths here.

“I Wanted To Tell Her” was a surprising duet with vocalist Shay Jones but its good to remember that the same year Heaven 17 had their biggest UK hit with a similar endeavor; “Temptation” with Carol Kenyon. Maybe Arista [who had signed both bands in America] did have some influence in some of the creative decisions made for this album as Jourgenson has maintained. On the other hand, many of the songs here seem to have been written after a particularly messy and painful breakup and this one took a more nuanced look at the aftermath.

The single “Work For Love” was a funk workout with the dance floor in mind. I also have the US 12″ single of this from back int he day, but sold it off; only to buy a sealed copy at a record show in the late 80s. Which I then sold off  without ever playing a decade later! It’s more of a disco number than most of the stuff here, but it’s at least a good one! It’ll tell volumes when I reveal that the cassette I had made of this album [I always rolled this way in the vinyl years – recording an album and then listening to the tape] had none other than the first Madonna album on the B-side! They were bought at the same time and seemed to fit together better than anything else that I could think of.

Side two of the LP got off to an explosive start with the vicious and kinetic “Here We Go.” The rhythm programming on that one was particularly aggressive and the the synth wooshes as Jourgensen bites the hands of all of those who’d wronged him.  “Should Have Known Better” was a practical Jourgensen solo outing with Al playing and singing everything. It could have fit comfortably as a Martin Gore track on “A Broken Frame” or  maybe “Some Great Reward.” I get the feeling that perhaps the reason why Al is so uncomfortable with this album is that it’s largely a mix of post-breakup inspired material and maybe the relationship that spurred it on is something he’d rather not revisit. He certainly put forth a vulnerability on tracks like “Say You’re Sorry” or “Should Have Known Better” that could be discomfiting to him after the fact.

ministry - coldliffeUS8212AThe rest of us can just say that Al’s “full of it” and enjoy this early album. One that’s a darned sight better than many debut albums, in fact! After buying this album and the “Work For Love” 12″ I managed to get the 1982 issue of the Ministry debut single “Cold Life.” That got quickly ejected during the Great Vinyl Purge with no regrets. Around the same time as buying this CD reissue, I also bought the  “Twelve Inch Singles [1981-1984]” CD, but thirty years later [ow!] that CD was long gone [as part of the 2nd rate industrial purge]  while “With Sympathy” retains its cachet with me.

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About postpunkmonk

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5 Responses to Record Review: Ministry – With Sympathy

  1. jordan says:

    I quite enjoyed this LP when it came out as well as the 12″.Al sort of treats this album like Martin Gore treats A Broken Frame,a novice recording.I enjoyed Twitch greatly.Check out the You Tube footage of this LP tour.Al looks like a true New Romantic,with fake accent!

    At the time,I was following industrial/EBM music such as Revolting Cocks,Skinny Puppy,Front 242 as well as Throbbing Gristle and SPK and so on.That did not last.

    I saw Ministry on ” The Land of R & H” tour and it was still,some 30 years later,the loudest concert I have ever seen.I think it was this tour or the next where they had a wire mesh wall separating the band and audience.And they used it.I was into Ministry even as they went nu-metal for some reason until 1992.Think it was Al and his attitude that I thought was more cool than the music.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Jordan – Arrgh! That says everything! “A Broken Frame” is my second favorite Depeche Mode album! Lose “The Meaning Of Love” and it becomes my favorite. The US version has lots of nice 12″ mixes instead of the album versions. Like you I followed SPK, Skinny Puppy, F242 and this was all following on being into Cab Volt. I ditched a lot of that stuff after a certain age, but still enjoy F242’s imperial period a lot. I will never forget the impact of the “Front By Front” tour had on me! Friends swear the loudest show we ever saw was Killing Joke when they were playing [but had not yet released] “Extremities, Dirt, And Various Repressed Emotions.” Hah! I was expecting an “Outside The Gate” show! The only downside? It was so new to process that I was just stunned. That’s been my favorite Killing Joke album for decades, though I need to hear the ones after 1994.

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      • jordan says:

        Edit.Meant to say.
        I saw Ministry on ” The Land of R & H” tour and it is still,some 30 years later,the loudest concert I have ever heard.

        A Broken Frame is also one of my favorites.You should listen to the Marsheaux remix of that LP.

        I was with the tour team for that F242 tour supplying audio.5 dates anyway.The soundman was the guy who wrote the songs.Yes,it was loud.I thought the uniforms were silly but I guess it was a bit of theatre.

        I never saw that KJ tour but I do know that they are considered an extremely loud live act.

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  2. Rob C says:

    There’s a remastered version out with bonus tracks if you can get a hold of it – was released a few years ago to little to no fanfare – and is an essential part of my collection.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Rob C – I was amused when Al let this one out into the wilds. I never thought that it would happen. Though I like this album, my ardor is such that I could not justify buying it a third time. I probably should have, just for resale, but I’m not that mercenary!

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