Hi, kids! Little lesson in prevention today. This is your brain:

Alain Jourgensen, 1983

And this is your drain on brugs:

Alain Jourgensen, 2006

Any questions?

Okay, okay, put all your hands down. We’ll get to you each, one at a time. For all our advanced students who have covered this, please be patient and feel free to add to the discussion.

You all know Ministry, right? The aggro-industrial-metal revolving-member combo led by Alain Jourgensen, mostly known for their mid-90s alterna-crossover hit “Jesus Built My Hotrod,” yes? But are you aware that Ministry had much milder origins, starting as a New Wave dance club synthpop duo? And that With Sympathy, the duo’s first album, is still my favorite (and yes, I also adore everything else up through and including Psalm 69). Sympathy‘s first half is a fairly solid synthpop collection, much in the Soft Cell vein, complete with Chicagoan Jourgensen singing in a snotty British accent and even, GASP, rapping at one point on the single, “I Wanted To Tell Her”. “I Wanted To Tell Her”, along with “Work For Love” were respectable club hits, and who was around early MTV that doesn’t remember the video for “Revenge”?

And golly, through the magic that is YouTube, how about a live version of such from 1983? Yowza!

…but a personal favorite was the last song on the album, “She’s Got A Cause”, with its off-beat snare and extra snotty vocal delivery (“SHE’S. GAUGHT. A CAWWWZE!”). It’s like Marc Almond, but straight.

Now, of course, Alain disowns this album, to the point of letting it lapse out of print for quite a few years now. He claims his record label at the time, Arista, pushed this poppier sound down his throat, but I do have to take issue with that – I certainly wasn’t there, but songs like “Cold Life” and “(Everyday Is) Halloween” were done before AND after Arista came into the picture. Besides, can a record company actually force you to write a song? Certainly they can pick and choose compositions you don’t prefer, but I’ve yet to see Joe A&R Guy worm his way into someone’s brain, take control of their fingers and hit the DX7 keys for you.

Whatever the issue was, Ministry went on to discover guitars, machine-gun drum loops and lots and lots of drugs. But I don’t understand the hatred for this album, a nice little time capsule of perfectly acceptable synthpop that deserves a nice remastering and re-release. Maybe now that Al’s clean (since 2003!), he can look back on his misspent youth with a little more understanding and lift the embargo.

“I Wanted To Tell Her” peaked at #13 on the Billboard Club Play Singles Chart and at #106 on the Bubbling Under Chart in 1983.

Amazon has a nice selection of Ministry, including “Early Trax”, which compiles some early work from this period. “Early Trax” and more are also available on