Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Skinny Puppy - Assimilate



Video footage of the live track below:


Video footage of the Ain't It Dead Yet performance of Assimilate:

boomp3.com
Skinny Puppy-Assimilate (1986/12/10 Zopo in Horst, The Netherlands).mp3
boomp3.com
Skinny Puppy - Assimilate.mp3

Ah, yes. Skinny Puppy. I thought I would change things up a little bit by throwing a bit of Ogre into the mix, you know, and get your ire up. Now, it should be noted that I am a fan, first and foremost, of live Skinny Puppy, far more so than their studio work (with a few exceptions - most notably the Remission mini-LP). Today's song, Assimilate, is a great song in the studio, but it is SO much better live. I mean, I almost don't really consider the studio Assimilate to really be Assimilate at all. In fact, I would ask that you listen to the live version provided here before you listen to the original studio recording.

This live recording is, without a doubt in my mind, one of the greatest things in the history of music. Now, many of you may disagree, as most people think Skinny Puppy sounds like a wildebeest vomiting up its own shit, but I hope you'll give it a try, because I think it's really amazing. Skinny Puppy can have a reputation for being just noisy, angry crap that's really tiresome, but I disagree wholeheartedly. In fact, I think they are, without question, one of the most brilliant, intelligent, interesting and original bands of all-time. The reason for this is their live act.

When live, Skinny Puppy makes me think of Strindberg's A Dream Play, which proclaims at its beginning that its entire content - characters, etc. - is part of one larger, overarching consciousness. Each component is an element of one larger mind, much like Freud's concept of the nature of the dream. For me, live Skinny Puppy is like that; every sound, every yell, every sample, every beat, every word, every chord, is part of one mind expressing itself in a continuous flow of emotion and thought. It is, musically, probably the most immediate sense of pure expression I have ever heard, along with live New Order. Although the band at the time of this recording consisted of three people (and always has at least two), it seems as though everything is just spewing forth from the lead singer, Ogre (Kevin Ogilvie). It is truly a collage that is being crafted before our eyes, and in the moment. Like New Order, Skinny Puppy reminds me of the action painters; they are, in a sense, action pop musicians, acting out of emotion and impulse (not the same degree as the action painters or jazz musicians or something, of course, but as much as you can within the framework of the songs).

I think that this performance of Assimilate is, in a weird way, very, very beautiful. The sounds of the chords in the chorus are what really do it for me. And there is something truly gorgeous to me about what this song means. Have you ever heard something with a more immediate, sincere intensity? There is something almost unfathomably honest about this song; both in what it expresses and what it evokes. It is violent, and it is about violence and destruction, as most Skinny Puppy songs are. And Ogre clearly isn't too happy about something. But still, this song makes me feel deeply satisfied, and even elated in a kind of unconventional way. The sheer force of the music and vocals electrifies me like Ben Franklin (ZOUNDS!), and leaves me with this deep sense of wonder. How did they make such an incredible song? How does this sound this good? But there's something more to it.

Destruction, anger and violence are part of life. By no means am I a fan of any of them, but I think that one thing Skinny Puppy has taught me is that you have to accept that human beings are imperfect, everyone is capable of cruelty, anger and malevolence, and that life is full of endings. Things are constantly being destroyed, and that is part of the rhythm of life, as things sometimes need to be destroyed before they can be reborn as something better. This is true in society, in art, in families and in individual lives. In dreams, death can symbolize a rebirth, a transformation, a new beginning. And who doesn't die? Life means death, without question. But while bodies can be and are destroyed, the human spirit can live on (either through the soul - if you believe in that sort of thing - or one's legacy, creations, children, etc.). Death can, in fact, be a beautiful thing. And to truly love oneself or another, we all have to accept that human beings are flawed, and that they are not always kind and giving. Every human being on earth has moments where they are selfish, hateful and cruel, but we have to learn to accept and love and forgive ourselves and others, even when we and they have those moments. Otherwise, true love is impossible if we are only capable of loving certain portions of a person's personality. That love is not unconditional, and it is incomplete and immature.

Skinny Puppy, for me, is about embracing that darker side. It is not about championing it or saying it must remain uncontrolled or claiming that side to be superior, but it is about learning to love it, despite itself. And sometimes, it is very healthy and positive to get angry about things that are unjust, as Skinny Puppy is very wont to do. In fact, nearly everything they do is about some political issue, be it animal rights (ViViSect VI) or pollution (Too Dark Park) or what have you.

Here are the lyrics to this little ditty. I really had very little idea of where to put the line breaks, but I went for it:

Oil remove shred tear radiation vapor air
It's the fear so unclear man in motion going nowhere
In our homes stuck in the face spread the dirt to the populace
Yellow journal yellow journal set the pace feel the rage
Manifestations of a sort so insidious off the point
Simple solution never confuse sport a gun kill a cop
Crazy world of weary thought so receive me had enough
LOCK ME UP
LOCK ME UP
ROT
AND
ASSIMILATE
SO
HOT
TO
ANNIHILATE
Deviation tonic mess prolonged existence in a sense (innocence)
Is he who speaks isn't weak wheelchair virtue to speak
Bubonic plague the truth of AIDS immunity avoid decay
In the trench pestilence the Bible screams announce your faith
Mutterings of death do bring suffocate newborn thing
Degradation of an age venereal it's all sensation
Protect design the moral plan
INFALLIBLE
AS PROPAGANDA
COMPLETELY BLACK
WITH NO STEPS BACK
ROT
AND
ASSIMILATE
SO
HOT
TO
ANNIHILATE
Agony you're not thinking free clanking chains growing pains
Mutterings of death do bring suffocate newborn thing
Degradation of an age venereal it's all sensation
Protect design the moral plan
Infallible as propaganda completely black with no steps back
Agony profusely stains the inner thinking of the brain
Accusations clanking chains experiments groans of pain
It's all preferred no one blames the terror in an animal's screams
In cages our future
THE ANSWER'S INSANE
ROT
AND
ASSIMILATE
SO
HOT
TO
ANNIHILATE
Only death only death
Death death death death death


And good lord, the chorus. What the hell is he talking about? I don't know, but I'll be damned if I don't completely agree with him with that music playing behind him. I'm all like, "Yeah, let's rot and assimilate. Let me just change pants and I'm ready to go." But this song has a life-changing power to it, one that opens up this incredible world of a sort of forbidden and neglected beauty; that of the dark side of the human heart, and somehow accepting that without darkness, light would be meaningless and, in a sense, wouldn't really exist at all. For what would it be if it was a given? I guess the thing is that in the chorus, there is a light that bursts forth and ascends upward with each chord, illuminating spectacularly this world full of decay. And in fact, that light appears right as he is speaking of rotting and assimilating, and being "hot" to annihilate (spicy!). In a sense, isn't life kind of hot to annihilate? I mean, it certainly annihilates enough. But that light appears with the rotting and the assimilation, (perhaps the incorporation of the flesh into the soil and its eventual turn in becoming the soil itself which will sprout crops, etc.), as if to say that there is light in all things, and darkness makes that light all the more special. Why must we fear death? Since it is necessarily part of life, how can it be truly bad? All physical things die; even buildings slowly die and turn to the dust that lines our shelves. And as a beam of light shining through a window reveals that dust in the air, the beauty of the sight is really the beauty of decay. In Assimilate, perhaps Ogre is saying that the evils of society will inevitably die, or that despite them, we don't need to be afraid. Life will go on. I admittedly don't know quite how to tackle all the lyrics right now because it's two in the morning, but perhaps you would like to give it a try. I hope you dig it.

3 comments:

Chawson said...

Up next, musically locate the nugget of difference between being "hot to annihilate" and Being It.

What I hear you saying, and I'm talking about the Dude here, is that if the former is spicy, the latter is the Finishing Touch.

Good post. All agog.

Ben said...

Being It. Being Beans. Beings.

Ross McDermott said...

I always thought it was Wrought and assimilate, Ought to annihilate... Suit up! Rot / Wrought interchangeable of course; I hope SP members can appreciate this take?