As you may have heard, David Schock at WTII has been posting the results of his Top 500 industrial songs of all time project over at Facebook. Various folks from all across the scene – bands, DJs, promoters, writers (including your humble correspondents) were invited to send in their ballots to determine what the greatest 500 Industrial Songs of all time are. The criteria as laid out by David is fairly simple: participants were to simply write a list of 101 songs they felt were most representative and qualitatively “best” examples of the genre, with points assigned for where they rank in the list. Your number one pick got 100 points, number two got 99 and so on, all the way down to a half a point at number 101, theoretically to be used for tie breaking. After a few months of tabulations and a week or two of slowly releasing the results from the bottom up (for those curious, the lowest ranked song to receive a whole point was our own number 100 pick, The Young Gods’ “Our House” which came out at 3765) the final results are now available, and there’s a whole lot to talk about. Take a read at the Top 100 song list here, those of you without access to Facebook, you can also see it here on Violent Playground.
Firstly, much respect has to be given to David for taking on this project. Beyond the organization and the undoubtedly mind-numbing process of sorting out the data, he’s proven himself to be incredibly enthusiastic about seeing this through, posting videos on Facebook, engaging in debate and generally trying to get folks interested in not just the project, but the music itself. Anything that engenders talk about Our Thing is welcomed, and considering how marginalized industrial has become in the greater musical landscape, we were very happy to participate. So take a bow David, we salute your efforts and hope they’ll not only give rivetheads something to chew on, but also serve as a resource for the curious.
On to the list itself: we recommend having a look at the Top 500, although there’s plenty of interesting stuff in all reaches. Amongst the most surprising trends we noticed was the fairly global interpretation of industrial many voters took: while The Cure’s “Burn” and Bjork’s “Army of Me” aren’t songs that fit any but the most loose definition of the genre, their inclusion does paint a picture of the continuum that these songs exist in. Lots of stuff that gets played in the clubs and on the podcasts of Our Thing aren’t industrial, but even when their sonics are dissimilar they have contextual value for the larger part of the list: none of this stuff exists in a cultural vacuum. It’s tempting to assume that anyone who felt that “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” (166), qualifies for the list was just writing a list of all time goth club classics, but even if it’s true, there’s a lesson there.
Minus any demographic information linking the songs to the folks who voted for them, we’re gonna have to assume that a lot of surprisingly highly ranked picks are regional hits. While unexpected, seeing tracks by artists like the Gothsicles (“Konami Code” 188) rank fairly highly is cool. The very nature of polling folks across the globe is gonna lead to some degree of homogeneity (as seen in the Top 100), having a song that’s perhaps not as well known everywhere but that is a stone classic in one place offsets that to a degree. That leads us into the question of songs “deserving” a ranking, which is a debate that usually rises up around these sorts of lists in every scene. We’ll stay far clear of that (our ballot below probably gives a pretty clear indicator of our tastes and perceptions), although we do believe, in the immortal words of Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven, that “deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.” It’s all based on a vote, the songs that got voted for ranked the highest, that’s kind of the end of it. While we’re certainly open to arguments that say, A Split Second’s “Flesh” (133) is a better, and more influential song then plenty of stuff in the top 100, that’s an aesthetic and historical viewpoint, which aren’t ultimately factors when the tally is done. Suffice to say we don’t think there’s any truly egregious omissions from the top 500 (okay, fine, there should be at least ONE Kirlian Camera song in there) and ultimately it gives a broad view of the past and present, and maybe a small glimpse of the future in which contemporary artists made the cut.
On to the top 100. Firstly, the obvious: nothing too current on here. There are only four songs released in the last 10 years, with the vast majority being from the 80s and 90s. Beyond the first inescapable truth of these sorts of lists, that older stuff will generally always garner consensus while the legacy of newer songs and artists is still being formed, there’s also the question of how we consume music in the current climate. When it’s just as easy to find the new release from Aesthetic Perfection online as it is to find any given top 40 single, what’s popular is far, far less dependent on factors like club play, the end result being that a newer song is in far greater competition with literally every other song in and out of genre to grab the attention and affection of any given listener. If David or some other kind soul takes on this project in 10 years it’ll certainly be interesting to see what trends have developed in that regard. Regardless, there’s still some surprises to be found. Stromkern’s “Stand Up” (77) Acumen Nation’s “Gun Lover” (28) are interesting as specific songs to represent the bands and for their rankings: we had no idea either song (both of which are great, undoubtedly) had such a large profile. That sort of thing is manna from heaven for us at ID:UD, while either could be attributed to some sort of weird statistical fluke, it’s much more fun for us to look at them as indicators of people’s experience within Our Thing that isn’t our own. That’s the real value for us of a list like this, as both an affirmation of global views and as a window into areas we may not have considered or been aware of.
Finally, the Top 10. With the exception of Bigod 20’s “The Bog” and Clock DVA’s “The Hacker” (at 9 and 10 respectively) we’d be be pretty open to shuffling any given song into any other spot, including number one, all have a fairly equal claim to it, at least as far as exposure and generally accepted status as classics goes. As Vancouver industrial nerds we’re of course happy to see our heartland representing almost a third of the top 10, although the real winner might be Uncle Al Jourgensen, who between Ministry and related side-projects (including his production work on Rabies) appears no less than 6 times in the top 25 alone. Once again, not a total surprise, but not a totally anomalous perception of industrial from a North American perspective. It’d be interesting to see how the top 10 might have looked had this project been conducted entirely in Europe: we suspect that “Headhunter” (1) and “Join in the Chant” (2) would likely not be going anywhere. We’re happy with the way it shapes up at any rate, and although the nature of this sort of beast dictates an emphasis on established songs (almost every song in the top 100 would get a dancefloor going in most parts of the world), this sort of document is infinitely useful for those of us who think about this stuff far too much, both as something to refer to when discussing the vicissitudes of what constitutes “popular” in a marginal scene and as something to pore over just for the pure love of this music. The latter is the reason David, and anyone involved in the voting (including your friends here at ID:UD) bother to do any of the stuff they do like promote, run labels, blog, whatever. So hats off to the folks involved, and moreover to Mr. Schock for going ahead and spending six months putting all of it together. We love our scene and love anything that creates discussion about it.
On to our own ballot.
We opted to include only one track per band on our ballot in the interests of getting as wide a representation of sub-genres and periods in as possible. While these songs aren’t necessarily our favourites by the artists in question, we think they’re both at least somewhat reflective of said artists’ overall work and speak well to their relevance and place in the broader history of industrial. We’ve included the placement of the song’s we’re discussing on David’s list in brackets.
ID:UD’s Top 100 Industrial Songs Ballot
1. Coil, “The Anal Staircase” (100)
Our number one represents a lot of things for us, and for I Die: You Die as a whole. Firstly, our profound respect for the legacy of Coil, both as artists and figures in Our Thing. It’s our belief that music, all music, is a better thing for having had Jhon Balance and Sleazy, and it’s important for us to both claim them as part of the legacy of industrial music even as we proclaim their importance beyond it. Secondly “The Anal Staircase” is as close to representing our vision of industrial as any song possibly could be. It’s visceral, creepy, danceable, and trancelike. It doesn’t follow an established template of song writing but has a mechanical inevitability in its progression. It’s a distortion of the organic by the technological (the horn samples warping and folding in on themselves), so much so that the two become intractable. It’s got queer politics, questions of dominance and submission and passion all rolled into one terrifying vocal performance. In short, although Coil have plenty of other great songs (some of which we love more), to us “The Anal Staircase” is industrial, a superlative example of what we think the genre is, and almost everything we find enticing about it. Consider it our platonic ideal and our apogee all rolled in one: the perfect expression of what industrial is, and was and still can be.
2. Skinny Puppy, “Love in Vein” (289)
Choosing just one Puppy track was hard, but opting for something from critical and fan favourite Last Rights felt appropriate, and “Love In Vein” is as good an encapsulation of the elements which make Puppy the cornerstone they remain. The funhouse-from-hell intro gives way to a classic cEvin groove, all draped in sample-mad atmospherics from Dwayne, while Ogre thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts.
3. Front 242, “Circling Overland” (148)
We’ll cop to a bit of strategic voting on this one. While we knew “Headhunter” would beat out all other 242 tracks by a mile, the menacing pulse of “Circling Overland” shows just how versatile Front By Front and 242 on the whole are.
4. Nine Inch Nails, “Wish” (49)
For our money the best example of why Trent is so important, not just because he made it as an industrial artist (in fact, he has bucked at the tag on more than one occasion) but because he wrapped up industrial in the signifiers of things like alternative rock and metal and sold folks who might never have cared about it otherwise. If you don’t think that’s difficult, ask why more folks haven’t done it; it takes a level of genuine musical genius to pull off, as evidenced by the endurance of “Wish” in the public eye, a trojan horse that also happens to be an amazingly great expression of post-teen angst and aggression.
5. Throbbing Gristle, “Discipline” (115)
“Discipline” doesn’t just perfectly capture the psycho/socio/sexual neuroses which TG saw as being endemic to the modern world, it’s also their John Coltrane number – it was often the centerpiece of their live show, and could be extended, compressed, or generally fucked with however the band saw fit.
6. Nitzer Ebb, “Let Your Body Learn” (119)
Okay, maybe we’re being ultra-literal, but nothing quite expresses the “B” in EBM like Ebb’s “Let Your Body Learn”. Propulsive aggressive and yeah, kinda sexy all in one, it’s music that moves your body, the perfect soundtrack for dancing, working out, fucking, whatever. Learn! Build! Choose!
7. Ministry, “So What?” (20)
This is a nice compromise for us, one that does a good job of showing off Al and Paul’s work as producers, songwriters and performers and as collaborators (all props to Chris Connelly and Bill Rieflin in this case), all of which are as important to their legacy as Ministry as any given song itself. As an encapsulation of their capacity for groove and drang, you needn’t ever look any further than this.
8. Kirlian Camera, “Eclipse” (1036)
We’re still not 100% sure about whether or not we can call this track industrial in all good conscience, but as we hope we’ve shown on this very site, Kirlian’s genre-hopping has had a huge impact on post-industrial of all stripes.
9. Einsturzende Neubauten, “Haus der Luge” (1057)
Perhaps as “rock” as Neubauten ever really got, this track fires on all cylinders: there’s the head-slamming, doomy yet funky bass riff, oodles of percussive clatter, both rhythmic and otherwise, and the subtle horn arrangement that emerges midway through perfectly underlines Blixa’s crisp vocal attack.
10. Klinik, “Moving Hands” (121)
The impact of Dirk Ivens and Marc Verhaeghen’s bridging of minimal synth and industrial culture and sounds can’t be overstated. Between slow grinds like “Black Leather” or full-bore floorkillers like this, the foundational Klinik records paved the way for all dark electro to follow.
11. Swans, “Time is Money (Bastard)” (520)
An utterly brutal track. Pure machine-like punishment is delivered by some of the most unrelenting work you’ll ever hear from “traditional” rock instrumentation. Gira barks a harrowing take on eye-for-an-eye judgement in a Foucaultian nightmare world.
12. Haujobb, “Penetration” (142)
Released a stand-alone single smack between Polarity and Vertical Theory, “Penetration” encompasses everything we love about Haujobb. Technologically minded but utterly cryptic, anthemic but wholly sinister. And holy crap, did it ever remix well.
13. Babyland, “You Will Never Have It” (156)
In a perfect world Babyland would be rich and famous. We could write pages about why their music is important, and how it makes us want do something , and how even late in the game Gatto and Smith were making some of the best music they ever had and we ever heard and felt. We’ll shut up though. Listen and watch and you’ll get it.
14. A Split Second, “Flesh” (133)
It’s still easy to see how this track kicked off an entire subgenre of dark dance music back in ’86: played at 45 or 33 RPM it still delivers the goods on today’s dancefloors. Without this track there’d be no Lords Of Acid, no Gatekeeper…we could go on.
15. Foetus, “I’ll Meet You In Poland” (97)
Is Thirlwell offering a satirical perversion of Hegel’s master-slave dialectic in placing conquests of love on a continuum with fascistic conquests of Europe? Or is he just being the cocksure, grandiloquent bastard we all know and love?
16 Cabaret Voltaire, “Nag Nag Nag”
17. Laibach, “Opus Dei”
18. Covenant, “Tension”
19. Snog, “Corporate Slave”
20. Front Line Assembly, “Plasticity”
21. Download, “Glassblower”
22. Leaether Strip, “Strap Me Down” (15)
We’ll be honest: it never occurred to us that this song might be about bondage (apart from the spiritual sort) when we first heard it as impressionable teenagers just getting into dark electro, but even if it had we’d still have signed up for Uncle Claus’ crash course in pummeling basslines, classic sampling and all-killer, no-filler leads. We’re getting jacked up just writing about it.
23. Revolting Cocks, “Stainless Steel Providers”
24. Meat Beat Manifesto, “Psyche Out”
25. Cubanate, “Oxyacetalyne”
26. DAF, “Verschwende Deine Jugend”
27. Apoptygma Berzerk, “Deep Red”
28. Icon of Coil, “Regret”
29. VNV Nation, “Further”
30. Dive, “Final Report”
31. :Wumpscut:, “Die in Winter” (891)
Rudy may be spending his days putting out album after disappointing album on a yearly clockwork schedule, but if you want to know why people still care after all this time, well you could do worse than to listen to this atmospheric bit of nasty dark electro from the time when :W: was arguably the king of the genre.
32. Das Ich, “Destillat”
33. Project Pitchfork, “Alpha Omega”
34. KMFDM, “Godlike”
35. Killing Joke, “Wardance”
36. Gridlock, “Retina”
37. Die Krupps, “Metal Machine Music”
38. 1000 Homo DJs, “Supernaut”
39. Cyberaktif, “Nothing Stays”
40. Psychic TV, “Papal Breakdance” (870)
Say what you will about PTV’s more indulgent and aimless experimental pieces, but when that odd mix of acid house and psychedelica was in the zone, Gen & co. cranked out some killer tunes.
41. Clock DVA, “The Hacker”
42. Test Dept., “Comrade Enver Hoxha”
43. C-Tec, “Foetal”
44. My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, “Do You Fear for Your Child?”
45. And One, “Technoman”
46. SPK, “Metal Dance”
47. ohGr, “Minus”
48. Bigod 20, “Body to Body”
49. Acid Horse, “No Name, No Slogan”
50. Imminent Starvation, “Tentack One”
51. NCC, “Seven Steps Of Nervousness” (1025)
The title track from these “what ever happened to” critical favourites is a great summation of why that album is still so beloved. These NY kids grabbed the trance elements which were ubiquitous at the turn of the millennium and dashed off into bizarro world: builds to nowhere, cliff-drop tempo changes, choruses compressed into thin bands of anxious freakout.
52. Pig, “The Sick”
53. NON, “Total War” (285)
A song so good it’s almost possible to forget that Boyd Rice is a complete piece of shit! Wow!
54. Die Form, “Rain of Blood”
55. X Marks the Pedwalk, “Abbatoir”
56. Portion Control, “Under the Skin”
57. Forma Tadre, “Looking Glass Men”
58. Steril, “Overgod”
59. Godflesh, “Like Rats”
60. Converter, “Death Time”
61. Aesthetic Perfection, “Pale”
62. Severed Heads, “Dead Eyes Opened”
63. Deutsch Nepal, “Deflagration of Hell”
64. Alien Sex Fiend, “Now I’m Feeling Zombified”
65. Numb, “Blood”
66. Nurse With Wound, “The Self Sufficient Sexual Shoe”
67. The Neon Judgment, “TV Treated”
68. a;GRUMH, “Danger Zone”
69. Lustmord, “Beckoning”
70. Moev, “Crucify Me”
71. Absolute Body Control, “Figures”
72. Flesh Field, “The Plague”
73. Assemblage 23, “Naked”
74. Snowy Red, “Euroshima (Wardance)”
75. Stromkern, “Night Riders”
76. [:SITD:], “Lebensborn”
77. mind.in.a.box, “Stalkers”
78. Interlace, “Soul of a New Machine”
79. Iszoloscope, “The Audient Void”
80. Controlled Bleeding, “Words (of the Dying)”
81. Suicide Commando, “See You in Hell”
82. Attrition, “Acid Tongue”
83. Pigface, “Nutopia”
84. The Invincible Spirit, “Push”
85. Encephalon, “A Lifetime Of Puppetry”
86. Seabound, “Hooked”
87. Malaria!, “Kaltes klares Wasser” (3363)
While the deathrock community’s gone out of its way to embrace the pioneering work of Gudrun Gut and Bettina Köster, its influence on the industrial scene (which had a pretty open-border policy with NDW back then) has been more difficult to locate, and that’s downright criminal.
88. Robotiko Rejekto, “Umsturz Jetzt”
89. Sister Machinegun, “Addiction”
90. Chrome, “Meet You In The Subway”
91. Hocico, “Poltergeist” (380)
The song that launched a thousand awful bands, but we forgive Hocico, it’s not their fault that the deceptively simple template of this song has proven to be easy to rip off poorly, and hard to do well. If nothing else, it makes a good missing link in the evolutionary chain from dark electro to terror EBM.
92. Kant Kino, “The Owner Of This House Lives Here”
93. Velvet Acid Christ, “Fun With Drugs”
94. Excessive Force, “Violent Peace”
95. Funker Vogt, “Tragic Hero”
96. Arzt + Pfusch, “Scumfuck”
97. Necro Facility, “Do You Feel The Same”
98. Spahn Ranch, “Heretic’s Fork”
99. This Morn Omina, “One Eyed Man”
100. Young Gods, “Our House”
101. Noise Unit, “The Drain”