Foetus is the long-running recording vehicle of Australian recording pioneer J. G. Thirwell. A sort of bedroom recording artist on an immensely elevated scale, Thirwell incorporates a wide range of styles in his music to produce almost absurdly overblown songs that sound from moment to moment like a hellish combination of Pet Shop Boys, Tom Waits and Nine Inch Nails. The central theatricality of the music - together with orchestral samples and culturally literate lyrics - means that the feel of the music is far from the fearful noise that you might expect from the band name.
Nail (together with the lesser but still considerable Hole) has languished unreleased on CD for too many years, and its return to the catalogue should have been announced at the very least by choirs of angels. This is THE Foetus album: perhaps a little raw in production compared with later albums such as Gash, but full of wit, energy, drama and a musical spirit that knew no boundaries. This was, after all, 1985: a year, and a decade, that has not come to be regarded as a golden age for music. Nail was underground music in its day but today can be related to more mainstream artists: there are hints of Metallica or Nick Cave here, for example, and the pervasive use of samples, layering and other recording tricks is much more comprehensible today when the same techniques are used in most genres.
In a sense, this is the one drawback of the album: the war is over and Foetus "won". This is music that can't surprise us in the way that it did way back when ... but it can probably entertain a much wider audience today than it ever could when it was issued. The rousing refrain of "Viva (Anything)" - "I can do any goddam thing I want" - seems more true today than ever before.