Wednesday, June 15, 2016


One of the striking things about seminal industrial unit Throbbing Gristle was that they looked like they were assembled via casting call a la the Monkees.

You had the anti-Davy Jones, Genesis P. Orridge, pretty boy Chris Carter, pornography pinup girl-next-door Cosey Fanni Tutti and well, Sleazy. If only they had a half hour TV show back in the day, sponsored by Tesco department stores, in which they'd get involved in various madcap adventures such as the time Cosey inadvertently agreed to date two different guys on the same night. After realizing her dilemma, Genesis dresses up like a woman, tells one date he's her sister, and fends off the amorous clutches of the drunken lothario with some trademark Brit BBC double entendre humor straight out of a show like ARE YOU BEING SERVED? Cut to the band performing "Hit by a Rock" and end credits.

Here at BLOG TO COMM we are not approaching TG as anything but a band. Forget the concentration camp chic, the Crowley-in-the-box boogeyman, the philosophical treatise. What we are interested in is Genesis P. Orridge playing bass guitar in the way that chimpanzee in the Samsonite commercial played the luggage. The fact that said bass was hooked up to every rinky dink fuzz pedal and distortion unit the band could find was just the icing on the cake.

With that in mind, here is a Cliff Notes assemblage of required Throbbing Gristle recordings for the novice, taken from legit, grey area and bootleg releases.

Like in the case of the Grateful Dead, there are seemingly endless live recordings. Unless, like a Dead devotee, you collect a show just for the jam leading from "China Cat Sunflower" into "Pigpen stares at an oily puddle beside a dumpster" and you just need to hear a certain Cosey coronet bleat recorded on a Dictaphone in '78 you only need a few of the multitude of live shows. HEATHEN EARTH is one. The particularly intense FUNERAL IN BERLIN is another. SPECIAL TREATMENT (a '78 show re-processed by Carter) where Genesis took an overdose of pills before the show (Cosey had thrown him over for Carter) and does a monologue about coming home to an empty room with cats staring at him before becoming post-verbal for the rest of the gig is the third.

Side one of their first LP SECOND ANNUAL REPORT is a masterpiece right out of the gate, an amazing brick-bat upside of the head. It's right up there with the most throttling of the no wave bands, if operating on a somewhat different wavelength. Call it the mutant thalidomide stillborn as opposed to the full gestation of bands like Mars. If side two were more than a warmed-over Tangerine Dream toss-off this LP would rate the highest of hosannas.

The SORDIDE SENTIMENTAL 45 that was re-released on SEARCH AND DESTROY's Adolescent label, "We Hate You Little Girls"/"Five Knuckle Shuffle", is the perfect distillation of the early TG sound. The guitar on the latter sounds like one of those wands TSA agents use that make an ungodly whooping noise when someone tries to sneak contraband in on their person. It makes Lydia Lunch's guitar playing sound like...wait, hold that thought...I just played the song and my cat ran away from home.

"United" is the greatest of the early cyborg synth workouts, making something like "Warm Leatherette" sound like Doctor Demento fodder. If there were any justice in the world this song would be played as frequent as the nth-degree watered down regurgitations like "Tainted Love". The flipside, "Zyklon B. Zombie" ("It's like Coca-Cola only worse for your teeth"-Genesis), their token one chord punk song, is another killer diller. The white vinyl reissue with the middle section cut EXTRA LOUD is preferable. It sounds like what the choppers circling overhead at the outdoor gig the MC5 did at the 1968 Democratic Convention must've sounded like to a stoned Wayne Kramer.

The other studio LPs have their moments but were mostly divided into solo tracks by the various band members, and as such lack a certain cohesiveness.

The bootleg LP VERY FRIENDLY is made up of very early recordings. The title track is the heartwarming tale of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, the Moors Murderers, and like "The Gift" works as a lyrical and musical piece. Unfortunately the song isn't separated into two channels so you can't choose to lay back with a groovy piece of music or listen to Genesis describe the victim as "just a lump of stuff".

The side long track on their final studio LP JOURNEY THROUGH A BODY will give you an idea of what it'll be like to be hooked up to machines on your death bed after too many years of the Cheetos/malt liquor diet many of us existed on during leaner times.

There are a few more odds and ends, but I'll cut this short and just add that like a lot of life affirming, rambunctious, direct-to-the-mainline sounds-as-energy musical manifestos out there, the best of TG still resonates with that engorged electrical yawp all these years later. I'm talking about a band who, when a gypsy encampment invaded their neighborhood resulting in a skyrocketing amount of theft and violence, actually engaged in sonic warfare by using sub-sonic oscillations and other disruptive waveforms beamed at the encampment via hidden speakers. The gypsy guard dogs went mad, the inhabitants complained of sleeping poorly and health problems, and eventually they pulled up stakes declaring that the place was haunted!

How many bands would consider sound to be anything more than a means to construct songs that'll get them a Lexus and a palatial retreat overlooking the ocean? For TG it was an arrow and a quiver! They even got an ace a-side for a 45 out of the whole experience, the song "Subhuman".

Maybe they weren't the "wreckers of civilisation" the British Parliament tagged them as, but they wrecked a few cones in my cheapo stereo speakers, and that's good enough for me. And you too.

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