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An 80s novelty, though well executed - 84%

Pathological_Frolic, May 3rd, 2008

As I understand it, Ministry play industrial rock/metal these days. I say "As I understand it", because I have listened to nothing they have put out but this. I'm dead serious. And I can promise you, this is pretty strongly removed from any metal/rock/industrial influences, with only the band's electronica influence really showing up. After all, this is synth-pop. Being a child born in the 90s (late in the year 1990, specifically), I have no fond memories of hearing such music over the radio or during outings commonly during my more innocent and joyful days, so there goes any sentimental/nostalgic value this work would have had for me. But I still sort of like this assortment of songs, since I'm not completely unfamiliar with it (Thanks can be given to the soundtrack of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City).

I'm told that the direction of With Sympathy was largely one pushed upon Mr. Jourgensen by his record label, but one can only wonder. After all, I don't note the typical pop folly of "one passable, catchy song and then a miasma of filler", as every song is in one way or another given a specific flavoring and touch, and overall, it's easy to see that there was more thought put into this work than perhaps the modern-day Jourgensen would like to admit.

As for the sound, it's fairly standard synth-pop with some elements I recall being sagely described as "White man's funk". If you want a better idea of what I'm talking about, look at the track "I Wanted To Tell Her". I can't tell how much of the instrumentation was done by a keyboard, since I hear bass, guitars, and stereotypical key sounds, but I'm fully unaware of how good a job synthesizers could do at replicating such instruments back then (Or even now, for that matter). However, I do know there was a drummer used, which strikes me as odd since I had first felt suspicious of the drums authenticity. The production values are pretty good as well, with all the instruments (Or replicated sounds of instruments) cleanly and clearly heard. Jourgensen's vocal job is, while not unusual or innovative in any way for this genre, very good. He goes from several different moods and pitches during any given song (Not to say he's Freddie Mercury and has an unbelievable range, but still), and while he's faking the British accent, I don't think anyone but a Brit would notice.

I'm sure Ministry fans would be blown out of the water hearing this juxtaposed with the later output, in fact, I'm sure had they released this at almost any other period in their career, it would have been a situation not unlike that whole "Cold Lake" fiasco. Except, unlike Cold Lake, this album actually is pretty solid for what it is (Can't judge it as a metal album, after all), and if you find yourself rushing to the synth-pop channel in GTA the second you enter the car, or you feel hopelessly stuck in the nostalgia this sound brings out, then you might like this.