James G. Thirlwell might just be a genius.
Where most bands are comprised of many individuals, Thirlwell is an individual comprised of many bands: since 1981 Thirlwell has been unleashing his seething pseudo-industrial musical genre-fusion catharses on an unsuspecting world in a multitude of guises. Most well-known for his various Foetus-based pseudonyms (Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel, You've Got Foetus On Your Breath, Foetus Art Terrorism, Foetus Interruptus, etc.), he is also Clint Ruin and Frank Want. He is Wiseblood; he is The Venture Brothers; he is DJ OTESFU, among myriad other names.
The sheer volume of his output is startling. Trouser Press lists no less than 21 albums and EPs in their admittedly abbreviated discography, and that only covers the music he has released himself. Add to that his compositions for others and his assorted guest appearances, collaborations and studio manipulations, and you are faced with a sprawling musical family tree that puts most others to shame. His music is multi-layered and genre-defying. Bits of various styles and genres burble up through the muck: the punk aesthetic is fused to a swing beat, a surf guitar spices up a military march, strains of familiar melodies are hopelessly twisted and morphed into frightening spectres. Every idea Trent Reznor ever had for Nine Inch Nails, Thirlwell had first and executed more deftly - and Reznor only scratched the surface of deep, murky pool.
If you don't know Thirlwell's music, the best place to jump in are his two masterworks under the Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel moniker, Hole and Nail. Both will leave you breathless and stunned but wanting more.
This week's NW4NW entry is Thirlwell performing Nail's "Descent Into the Inferno," probably my favorite Thirlwell creation, on a UK TV show called The Tube. How perfectly ironic to see him standing their lip-syncing like your typical pop artist, and how funny to see the disbelief and confusion on some of the faces in the audience...