Satanic Ritual Abuse
Reviewed by Laurie Bell
Tuesday, April 6 1999, 10:51 PM
The Christal Methodists first commandeered my airwaves in 1994. Perched in Toronto over the next four years, I relied on Christal Methodists' releases, including Grungicide and New World Odor, for a view of the ongoing saga of the American culture war about which the Religious Right, the House Impeachment managers and other recent media sensations have been so fond of whistling Dixie. The Christal Methodists' career spans the '90's era of the demise of the Cold War and the rise of the new global economy: from the time when Americans were still titillated by the dream of electing a President who was known to be driven by his libido, on through the period of delusion with a good 'ole Southern boy who thought he could fool around with a Jewish princess from Tinseltown and not be exposed as a traitor.
The latest Christal Methodists release, Satanic Ritual Abuse, ushers my own return to the United States, just in the nick of time to partake of the millennium festivities. As for providing a suitable soundtrack for this prelude to the future, the Christal Methodists are apropos of the occasion: they are the Linda Tripps of punk. Adhering to the First Punk Commandment, "Thou shalt not ask permission," the Methodistas audio-tape the long-winded and short-order tales, rants, questions and sufferings of people who call into Fundamentalist Christian talk shows seeking guidance, or some plain good company on a cold, lonely night.
They call and they call. They open up. They break down. Some speak in tongues. Some choke. Some are rendered speechless. Some can't get enough. Some, you can be sure, will be back for more. And when they do, the Christal Methodists will be waiting, lurking at their end of the interactive food chain of radios, telephones, recording equipment and transmitters that make up the bizarre and commonplace ecosystem that is Christian media evangelism. For the rest of us, Christian radio is just a bad frequency. For the Christal Methodists, it is a portal to the political discourse that makes up fundamentalist Christianity.
Satanic Ritual Abuse is the Christal Methodists latest and best exhibit of the tapes, phone records, blue dresses, DNA traces and other evidence they find in the glass house of right-wing religious media. In this respect, the Christal Methodists are providing a much-needed community service by sparing the rest of us, who cannot listen to the shows for more than a minute, the trouble. Thanks to the Christal Methodists, we still get to peep. Even better, the band does us the honor of cranking the whole scene into a piece of art that longtime devotees and first-time listeners, both punk and not, can all appreciate for its front-row, rhythmic digital mix of the distant and dissonant murmurings of right-wing Christianity.
The Christal Methodist boys have always had a keen eye for, you might even say fixation with, the apparent seductiveness of media evangelism. In some of their earlier work you can practically hear their mothers hollering from outside the bathroom door, "What's taking you so long? Turn off that radio and evacuate--now!" On Satanic Ritual Abuse there is the distinct impression that the boys have at last found digs of their own and are discovering the joys of playing with The Man without parental interference. The production quality, musical score, special effects and best of all, the course of the disc's own narrative, all testify to this evolution.
For a bunch of very unsexy people, Christian fundamentalists, in their bid to attract a market share of consumers, are remarkably attuned to the erogenous zones of their target audience. For fundamentalists, the Christal Methodists are the nightmare blind date come true, an unwanted chaperone and a whistle-blower all rolled into one. As the Christian talk show hosts are sneaking their hand onto the listener's knee and sliding it up toward their thigh, the Methodistas burst in screaming, "Excuse me, is someone getting fucked here?"
Some of the encounters, like in the cut 'Raped, Can I Get a Witness?,' or as with Frieda, in "Ecumaniacs," demonstrate punk compassion at its bristling best. The Christal Methodists speak to the plights of these women, one who is young and has been raped by a bible study classmate and one who is old and needs to hear the radio minister's authoritative male voice to soothe her to sleep, despite the fact that their predicaments fall upon deaf ears. Others, like 'The Goys of Sex' and 'Glory in the Flesh,' raise the temperature in the room with a strong back beat and a quick wit. While Satanic Ritual Abuse also includes prank calls by the band, the strongest pieces are the documentary ones where the callers are real, the hosts are unsuspecting and the Christal Methodists are listening in and then later, in the privacy of their studio, having their way with them.
Satanic Ritual Abuse is a Kolazhnikov release.