Since first seeing this trailer in mid-2017, I’ve been chomping at the bit to lay my eyes on this documentary: not just because it’s likely to be a wonderful cultural snapshot of the early 1990s underground music scene, but also because of its incredible nostalgic charm. For any disaffected youth at that time, Wax Trax! was the holy grail of experimental, innovative and, admittedly, distasteful music. And, even more importantly – music that stepped beyond the accepted bounds of the rock-n-roll archetype and offered something entirely different to what was otherwise available at the time.
The soundtrack, which shares the documentary name, Industrial Accident, is a delightful cross-section of that scene, capturing a wide range of the bands from the label’s roster. There are the obvious, expected big names like Ministry – without whom, it could be argued, Wax Trax!, would not have lasted as long as it did – and industrial “supergroup” Revolting Cocks, but there’s also great representation from across the Atlantic, from European industrial stalwarts like Front 242, Laibach and The Young Gods. This last group, interestingly, were touted as an inspiration behind the sound of David Bowie’sOutside album, despite his choosing to tour with Nine Inch Nails in 1995.
From a curatorial perspective, the opening track – My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult’s “A Daisy Chain 4 Satan (Acid and Flowers Mix)” – is a very tongue-in-cheek decision; it’s opening sample of “I live for drugs… it’s great,” taken from a 1967 anti-drugs PSA sets the anything-goes tone for the rest of the album – and, if anything, enhances the nostalgic charm. The drug scene and Wax Trax! go hand in hand, whether they like it or not – underground clubs, whether industrial, fetish or otherwise, have always been hotbeds of mind-altering substance abuse. Opening to almost any page at random of Al Jourgenson’s biography is a trip fraught with heroin, cocaine, methadone, alcohol and more. It also must be mentioned that another side of Wax Trax!, including artists like drag legend Divine, catered to the fledgling LGBTQ scene of the era, and its club music and this is, unfortunately, less represented on the compilation.
Check out the official “Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records” trailer.
Despite this, the tone of the compilation is surprisingly upbeat, with numbers like Pankow’s “Me and My Ding-Dong” covering the comedic, self-deprecating aspect of the scene: itself a symptom of the dissatisfaction that characterized industrial music, in that comedy is so often an emotional crutch of self-denial of deeper-seated emotional difficulties.
After all, the entire scene was built on the bedrock of misfits, outcasts, and dissidents - a melting pot of emotional and psychological traumas. Even Ministry’s offering – “Tonight We Murder” – predates their more widely recognized Warner-era thrash-metal-meets-machinery sonic palette. Similarly, the more politically-themed offerings, KMFDM’s “Vogue” and Mussolini Headkick’s “Your God is Dead,” carry enough groove and dancefloor fever to counteract the seriousness of their message; another example of the vehicle of music and clubbing to escape the doldrums of not quite fitting in with everyday society.
Belgium’s Front 242 gift their evergreen classic, “Headhunter”, as a live version from a 2017 New York show, showcasing the long-term effect this band has had on industrial and EBM scenes. One of the biggest online retailers catering to this scene, www.stormingthebase.com, even holds an annual EBM/industrial sale over the 24th of February, and this date has become an unofficial “International Industrial Day.”
A shot of the Industrial Accident vinyl package.
The clever curation comes into play again with the closing items: Laibach, who are enjoying increased media attention with their soundtrack work for the Iron Sky films and their recent Sound of Music tour to North Korea, offer the most experimental, metal-on-metal percussion cut on the record, 1987’s “Leben-Tod “, while Chris Connelly’s acoustic rock jam, “Shipwreck,” ends things on a very chilled note indeed.
Viewed holistically, the only downside to this soundtrack is that it ends too soon: the trip down memory lane has hardly begun when it ends all too abruptly. This could, quite easily, have been a combined soundtrack/label back catalogue release, with at least double the amount of music. Although, it must be said that if that were the case, it would more than likely end up as just another selection of “‘90s club classics” than the unexpected, original and cleverly constructed compilation that this soundtrack is. For more information, be sure to read our recent interview with Julia Nash.
One of Ministry’s best-known songs is “Everyday Is Halloween.” The Wax Trax! single was touted as Ministry’s “comeback” single after cutting ties with Arista Records.
Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records Track Listing:
01. A Daisy Chain 4 Satan (Acid and Flowers Mix) - My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult
02. Animal Nation - Revolting Cocks
03. Envoyé! - The Young Gods
04. Me and My Ding-Dong - Pankow
05. Tonight We Murder - Ministry
06. Vogue (Apart version) - KMFDM
07. Headhunter (Live NYC 2017) - Front 242
08. Your God Is Dead - Mussolini Headkick
09. Leben-Tod - Laibach
10. Shipwreck - Chris Connelly
Run Time: 46:22 Release Date: April 16, 2019 Record Label: Wax Trax!