Happy 30th birthday, Too Dark Park

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Electro-industrial titans Skinny Puppy released their masterpiece, Too Dark Park, on October 30, 1990, exactly 30 years ago today.

This revolutionary album is by far my favorite from Skinny Puppy’s catalog and one of my favorite albums of all time. I still listen to it regularly, and in my opinion it still feels fresh and timely. Its complex themes covering drug abuse, environmental destruction, animal rights, humanity’s demons, and whatever else flashed across Ogre’s mind remain extremely relevant today.

Too Dark Park was Skinny Puppy’s sixth album, but it was a turning point for them in many ways. It was the first album to feature Puppy’s famous, often tattooed SP logo, which seems crazy it wasn’t with them from the beginning.

The music’s dense electronics and samples marked a return to their earlier work. On previous album Rabies, they collaborated with Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen (he’s credited as Alien Jourgensen). Rabies is incredible in its own right (especially “Worlock“), but it borders on industrial-rock due to the heavier presence of guitars.

Unfortunately, Too Dark Park also has a tragic side. The three members of Puppy were fractured over the direction of the band (fucking Jourgensen!) and all doing side-projects. They were also heavy into drug use. Much of the nonsensical, stream-of-consciousness lyrics on Too Dark Park sound like they were written in a drug haze. These unfortunate circumstances led to recording follow-up album Last Rights in separate sessions and ultimately to Dwayne Goettel’s death from a heroin overdose in 1995.

One of the things I love about Too Dark Park is that I can listen to it from beginning to end in one sitting. It feels cohesive, almost like a concept album, which is an incredible feat given the strange, random turns the lyrics take. Every Skinny Puppy album has standout tracks (“Assimilate,” “Dig It”, “Testure”), but they’re often surrounded by vague, amorphous filler that makes it difficult to appreciate the albums in full.

Skinny Puppy released two singles from Too Dark Park, “Tormentor” and “Spasmolytic,” the latter of which was made into a disturbing, low-budget music video that features all sorts of crazy looking creatures. Plus, people eating cake.

My favorite track from Too Dark Park is “Grave Wisdom,” which feels like the soundtrack to the apocalypse. I’ve never been entirely sure what this song is about, if anything, but these lyrics have always stood out to me: “Death grabs a stillborn child. Another low test pesticide.” It’s a seemingly incongruous combination of thoughts, but I have always taken it to mean that the chemicals we put in everything will one day kill us all. The second that tap-tap-tap beat starts playing in a club, I will storm the dancefloor.

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