Another feature named after a Gary Numan song? Hey, you’ve got to give us points for consistency. Anyway, we’ll be using the Replicas handle to discuss reissues in a nuts n’ bolts fashion: addressing which new tracks and materials have been added, and whether the new version of a record merits a buy from those who already shelled out for it once. To inaugurate this new column, I’ll be reviewing what’s been brought to the table for Metropolis’ reissue of one of the most beloved Skinny Puppy side projects, Doubting Thomas.
What is it? Originally released on Wax Trax in 1991, The Infidel grew from wintry jam sessions between cEvin Key and Dwayne Goettel while the pair were sequestered in Toronto in 1987 to begin work on VIVIsectVI. After realising that these tracks represented something distinct from Puppy proper, cEvin and Dwayne would arrange and properly produce the album back in Vancouver, between the releases of Rabies and Too Dark Park.
While on similar ground to many classic Puppy braps, pieces like “The Moodswing” presage innumerable 90s projects which cast the electronic producer as curator/auteur of atmosphere and individual textures rather than composer proper, a mood amplified by the heavy sampling of voices from talk radio and books on tape. Marked by soupy, swampy tracks which aren’t beholden to verses or choruses, The Infidel offers a great opportunity to do some attentive listening for the unique moods and synths Dwayne brought to the fold, without the distraction of Puppy’s overarching legacy (or Ogre’s irrepressible presence). Similarly, funkier tracks like “THC” and “Turn A New Leaf” point towards the vibes cEvin would later explore on his solo records and Download’s Effector.
What’s on this reissue? You’re getting the same core track list of The Infidel itself which has remained stable since the record’s first release, plus the Father Don’t Cry single (including the three bonus tracks which were added to the single for a 1997 reissue), plus new tracks unearthed by cEvin in 2007. In short: the sum total of Doubting Thomas’ extant discography. Think of it as being somewhat akin to the Tones On Tail Everything! 2CD: neatly wrapping up the total works of a legendary band’s brief but fruitful spin-off.
It’s worth noting that the twenty-six tracks on this new Metropolis release are identical to the limited reissue of the record done in 2007 as part of Subconscious’ famed “From The Vault” series: if you bought that version, there aren’t any new tunes for you here. The remastering from that version appears again: it’s a tasteful mix which doesn’t leap out even during comparative listens, but maybe sharpens the stereo division and adds some deeper bass frequency, while thankfully avoiding any compression problems (if anything the levels feel more dynamic).
There are also some nice liner notes in which cEvin recounts the origins of the project, and an entirely adorable cartoon image of the pair as chibi stoners, along with Dwayne’s animal familiar.
Who should buy it? Absolute Puppy fetishists who already have the Subcon reissue will want this version for the alternate artwork and for completion’s sake, but they surely pre-ordered the damn thing a while back and have no doubt been yakking about it on Litany for months, so I don’t know why I’m offering them advice. (Speaking of which, if you want to really go down the rabbit hole, be sure to check the excellent piece Litany honcho Corey Goldberg wrote about The Infidel for its 2007 reissue.) More casual Puppy fans who’ve never checked the project should absolutely not pass on a chance to explore this other dimension of cEvin and Dwayne’s work.
If, like me, you’re still holding onto the original Wax Trax pressings of The Infidel and Father Don’t Cry, there’s enough on this reissue to merit a repurchase. If you have any copy of The Infidel and the expanded ’97 reissue of Father Don’t Cry, then you can probably safely skip it, and just individually buy the six new tracks digitally.