Who They Are: “Snog” is the primary creative outlet for the insanely prolific Australian composer-singer David Thrussell, who has released (many) albums over the past three decades under the Snog, Black Lung, Soma, Crisis Actor, The Enemy, and Grizzly Steppe brands, among many others. His work can generally be slotted into the EDM or Dark Ambient filing drawers, though his deep, guttural vocals and provocative, anti-capitalist lyrics tend to set him on a different track than the more purely dance- or chill-oriented purveyors of said genres. Thrussell is also a fine conceptualist, and many of his albums are released with narrative framing explanations, which often get picked up and reported by less skeptical media outlets as fact, even though they may or may not be. Some notable Thrussell press releases have found him claiming to have written an album while living on a diet of human flesh, or having gone through gender transition to create a “girl band” version of Snog, or while working on commission for the NXIVM cult, or after sledging his recording gear to an ice cavern on the Arctic Svalbard archipelago, or while in the care of a famed psychotherapist after a year in a near-catatonic state. Fact, fiction, fantasy, or fearsome deconstruction of music marketing tropes? Only David Thrussell knows the true answer to that question for any given project. Snog and its affiliated and fellow-traveling artists are long-standing pioneers at the borders and boundaries of copyright control and protection, regularly deploying corporate logos and other protected marks and brands in the visual packaging of their work, while also serving as self-declared “sample liberationists,” believing (to quote Thrussell directly) that “every sound recording has the right to self-determination. If a sound-byte, fragment or sample seeks asylum within one of our compositions, then we support them and their right to an individual sonic dignity.”
When I First Heard Them: Around 1997, when I was divesting myself of my large collection of vinyl albums by trading them in at various local record stores for credit to acquire compact discs. (Hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time). I had taken a big pile of albums to the Last Vestige Record Store in Albany (which I am very pleased to see still exists, bless their hearts), and while trawling the CD bins, found a pair of interesting looking and cheap Snog discs with their jewel-boxes notched and the always-ignorable “Promo Copies Only, Not For Sale” stamps on them: Dear Valued Customer (1994) and the then-new Buy Me . . . I’ll Change Your Life (1997). Those albums absolutely blew my mind, conceptually, lyrically, and musically, and I’ve acquired every Snog release since then, along with a lot (but nowhere close to all) of Thrussell’s releases under other project names. Given Thrussell’s disdain for restrictive copyright rules, it somehow seemed perfect that my first Snog purchases were not actually intended for sale. Thrussell’s later releases have regularly featured in my annual “Best Album” reports, with 2010’s Last of the Great Romantics earning my “Album of the Year” honors, and his most recent release, Lullabies for the Lithium Age, finishing in second place in my 2020 best records report. Well, at least I think that’s his most recent release . . . given his methods and models of mass distribution, things often slip out in ways and places that I don’t actually discover until well after the fact.
Why I Love Them: To lightly amend the famous quote from American Bandstand‘s long-running “Rate-A-Record” feature, I love Snog (and Thrussell’s other projects) largely because “they’ve got a good beat, and you can think to them.” It’s rare to find songs that work as well on the dance floor as they would in a political science class, but Thrussell routinely crafts such works, and he’s also capable of writing great melodies that make his thunderous polemics stick in your skull like the most tenacious pop ear-worms. As a kid who spent a sizable portion of my formative musical years devouring and deconstructing various progressive rock concept albums, I also deeply appreciate Thrussell’s conceptual approach to his own records, where he sets forth a premise, or a concept, or a structure, and then offers an hour or so of music that sits perfectly within said framework, while still hewing sonically, politically and commercially to his consistent and recognizable creative vision. His music is engaging to the brain, the booty, and the gut, and there are not a lot of artists in my collection who hit the bulls-eye on all three of those rubrics as consistently as David Thrussell does. (Note: Most of the tracks featured in the list below were issued under the Snog banner, but where that’s not the case, I have so annotated the song).
#10. “Orange Man Bad” from “Orange Man Bad” single (2019), credited to Crisis Actor
#9. “Christmas Everyday” from The Last Days of Rome (2007)
#8. “The Future” from Buy Me . . . I’ll Change Your Life (1997)
#7. “Everything Is Under Control” from Babes in Consumer Land (2013)
#6. “Atmosphere” from Slave New World (2017), credited to Crisis Actor
#5. “Cog” from Lullabies for the Lithium Age (2020)
#4. “The Universe” from Third Mall from the Sun (1999)
#3. “Hooray!!” from Buy Me . . . I’ll Change Your Life (1997)
#2. “A Man” from Last of the Great Romantics (2010)
#1. “Corporate Slave” from Lies, Inc. (1992)