Wax Trax on Wax: Aggression, Humor and Some Hits

A few landmarks in the Wax Trax! catalog:

“Closing In” by Strike Under (1981):

The kickoff single for the Wax Trax imprint was a bit of an outlier, as it’s one of the few label releases in a fairly traditional guitar-bass-drums rock format, albeit with a danceable groove. Among the very first Chicago punk bands, Strike Under played a critical role in the emerging Midwest underground scene, with singer Steve Bjorklund going on to form Breaking Circus in Minneapolis and bassist Pierre Kezdy joining Naked Raygun.

“The Name Game” by Divine (1981):

Harris Mistead, the drag-queen star of several John Waters films, brings a dose of camp, disco and LGBTQ attitude to his Wax Trax debut.

“Cold Life” by Ministry (1981):

Al Jourgensen’s homage to British new-wave synth-pop becomes Wax Trax’s first hit and creates an instant star in clubland.

“Next One Is Real” by Minimal Compact (1984):

The Israeli quintet fuses post-punk and dance on this club classic.

“(Every Day Is) Halloween” by Ministry (1985):

After wriggling free of his first major-label contract, Jourgensen briefly returns to Wax Trax to craft this goth anthem.

“Envoye” by The Young Gods (1987):

Dense death disco via Geneva, Switzerland, blending electric guitars and samples of classical music.

“Opus Dei” by Laibach (1987):

Subversive humor as only the Slovenian avant-garde can deliver it. The martial beats, deadpan sloganeering and classical grandeur conspired to make this track an unlikely MTV hit.

“Headhunter” by Front 242 (1988):

Live 2017 version of the Belgian band’s 1988 best-seller for Wax Trax.

“Stainless Steel Providers” by Revolting Cocks (1989):

Finitribe’s Chris Connelly takes over on vocals on this Ministry side project with Paul Barker laying down the thunderous bass line.

“Supernaut” by 1000 Homo DJs (1990):

This scorching Black Sabbath cover is one of two singles released by this ad-hoc supergroup, with Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor on vocals.

“A Daisy Chain 4 Satan” by My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult (1990):

Sleaze, sex and Satan set to a disco beat by mischief-makers Groovie Mann and Buzz McCoy.

“Naive” by KMFDM (1990):

German performance-art-project turned industrial innovators with buzzsaw guitar riffs, clangorous rhythms and neo-classical bombast.

“Walkin’ After Midnight” by Braindead Sound Machine (1991):

Self-dubbed “metaldisco” combo pummels the Patsy Cline classic.

“Shipwreck” by Chris Connelly (1994):

After shredding his vocal cords in the Revolting Cocks, Connelly channels heroes such as David Bowie and Roxy Music in his solo incarnation.

Greg Kot is the editorial director of The Coda Collection. He is also the cohost of the nationally syndicated public-radio show and podcast “Sound Opinions” with Jim DeRogatis, and previously the music critic at the Chicago Tribune for 30 years. His books include acclaimed biographies of Mavis Staples (“I’ll Take You There”) and Wilco (“Learning How to Die”) and a history of the digital music revolution (“Ripped”). He also coauthored “The Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones: Sound Opinions on the Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Rivalry” and has written extensively for Rolling Stone, BBC Culture and Encyclopedia Britannica. When he takes off the headphones, Kot coaches in his Chicago-based youth travel basketball program (OTEhoops.com). In addition, he has coauthored two best-selling editions of the book “Survival Guide to Coaching Youth Basketball.”

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