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Album Review

Recorded at a show at legendary New York venue CBGB's in late 1990, the two-disc Male shows Foetus and a crack band ripping through songs old and new, plus a few fun surprises along the way. Engineered by Martin Bisi, the recording packs all the brutal, unrelenting punch and atmosphere of Foetus' studio work, while the band itself avoids slouching at any and all points. The band membership itself is worthy of note, containing as it does a number of worthy names, many of whom also worked with Foetus' friend and sometime collaborator Michael Gira of Swans — bassist Algis Kizys, guitarist Norman Westberg, and drummer Vinnie Signorelli are present and fully accounted for. Matched thus by similarly minded aesthetic souls (and with longtime underground type David Ouimet contributing samples for that particular Foetus touch), Foetus himself lives up to the proceedings. Starting with the virulent burn of "Free James Brown," which makes the similarly-minded song by Big Audio Dynamite seem like an effete whine, Male captures Thirlwell in over-the-top insane-preacher, end-is-nigh mode. Matching the band both in total calamitous rage or slow, doomy jazz-noir crawl (and even a bit of country psych on the Elton John-quoting "Puppet Dude"), he makes a perfect frontman for a trip through hell. His affinity for Tom Waits' own raspy voiced delivery is clear, but Foetus is his own man throughout, not a soundalike. The one-two punch of "Butterfly Potion" and "I'll Meet You in Poland, Baby," the latter's vicious conflation of romance and World War II extremely chilling, makes for a particular highlight. Two creative covers surface — a vicious take on the Sensational Alex Harvey Band's obsessive glam classic "Faith Healer" and, reflecting a nicely open listening sensibility, a rumble through cult grunge band Tad's "Behemoth."


Born: 29 January 1960 in Melbourne, Australia

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Despite the constant shifts in name (from Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel to Foetus Über Frisco to Foetus All-Nude Revue) and the less frequent variations in aesthetics (all focused around the same unforgiving sonic attack), the music manufactured under the prolific Foetus umbrella is solely the product of one J.G. (Jim) Thirlwell. A native of Melbourne, Australia, Thirlwell relocated to London in 1978, where he conceived the basic Foetus concept -- impenetrable panoramas of extremist noise built...
Full bio