So Alien Jourgensen is gonna ride off into the sunset with this one, huh? Putting his battle-scarred industrial metal franchise to bed as the turbulent Bush II years wind down makes both poetic and practical sense — after all, MINISTRY seems to hit a slump when Democrats come to power, although given the likelihood that this war on terror is gonna be dragged out until our kids are gray-haired, he can't be retiring for lack of stuff to be pissed off about. And quitting the band to run a record company? In 2007? Isn't that kinda like a famous cowboy hanging up his spurs in 1900 to start a buggy whip factory?
Anyway, Al, enjoy that methadone retirement party and godspeed to ya. The band is going out on a high note – the trilogy begun with "Houses of the Mole" and "Rio Grande Blood" closes with "The Last Sucker". And if it's a heavy-handed take on the band's Psalm 69 glory days with dogmatic and exhaustively single-minded lyrics, it's also a thoroughly satisfying, brazen, corroded and black-lunged gob of everything you want out of a post-1989 MINISTRY record, delivered with as much heatstroked abandon and robot-metal fervor as the band's had in the last two decades.
"The Last Sucker" is a more textured and nuanced than "Rio Grande Blood", but not much – a little bit of atmosphere creeps into unlikely places, like the KILLING JOKE riff that opens the title track and the swirling coda "End of Days (Pt. 2)". There's a lot of that industro-thrash polka beat ("No Glory" wouldn't be out of place on "The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste") and grinding, apocalyptic layers of twisted metal and collapsing smokestacks (see the chorus of "The Dick Song"), blazing guitar solos and harbinger-of-doom speech samples galore.
There's a rollicking punk rock feel to "Die In a Crash", and some of that "Jesus Built My Hotrod" swing to their surprising cover of DOORS chestnut "Roadhouse Blues". The most deliberately 1992-sounding tracks, like "Watch Yourself" and "The Dick Song", somehow don't come off as rehashed leftovers – the core MINISTRY sound is hard-wired with so much anger and forward propulsion, it's hard to imagine the band sounding like it's coasting at all – kinda like MOTÖRHEAD, they're building things a very small and time-tested batch of blocks, but what they're building continues to be interesting.
If you're expecting a kinder, gentler, more reflective Al as he packs up and rides out, think again. "Dick Cheney, son of Satan" intones the chorus to "The Dick Song", and in "The Last Sucker" the protagonist is the hapless George W. Bush himself. "Life Is Good" is a bitterly sardonic look at life on the ground in Iraq, while "Watch Yourself" talks about the threat to those who speak out against the administration (remember, Jourgensen was against the war when it wasn't the cool thing to do, and when a solid majority of his countrymen still parroted the party line of being "with us or with the terrorists"). Depending on what side of the fence you sit on, Al's ranting may seem prophetic, delusional, or just exhausting, but there's no denying the man his axe to grind, or his determination to grind it regardless of fan reaction or other consequence.
MINISTRY spawned a thousand imitators, indoctrinated a couple generations into the jagged, drugged-out possibilities in melding industrial machine clank with metal crunch, and cut a wide swath through the minds of a lot of people from disparate scenes. "The Last Sucker" would be an enjoyable barbed-wire smack to the face even if it wasn't lent with the poignancy of being the band's farewell. Uncle Al deserves at least another hour of your time and fifteen bucks out of your wallet, so ante up and get sandblasted by one more endtime firebomb as only MINISTRY can lob 'em.