Vol. 2, Issue #6 April 13th - April 26th, 2007

Tiger Bear From Hell at NONzine.com

By: Wilhelm Murg

Throbbing Gristle, Part Two

I never really considered myself to be a punk, even though I came from that generation and witnessed the events first hand. At the end of the day I didn’t care about some English twit indecipherably screaming on about British wars that I had never heard of, nor was I convinced that The Ramones did us any favors by saving rock’n’roll. The first time anything made sense to me was industrial music, but the concept didn’t really get popular until NIN and Ministry integrated it with disco for a new style of top forty pop music in the early 1990s. As usual, the music was far more interesting before it became popular.

Punk was more or less positive, yet it was always accused of nihilism, industrial was nihilism to such a degree that it wasn’t even rebellious; if there was a chance we could become the establishment down the road, great! We could use the extra cash.

The industrial movement dared you to listen to it. After seeing each generation besting each other in being louder and noisier, the industrial crowd decided to take the whole apparatus of music and shove it into the ocean. One of the major disappointments of my old age is that I’ve yet to hear anything that makes me cringe because it’s “just noise.” In fact, the industrial musicians did such a good job at defining the edge that I doubt any generation will top them. When I hear these new bubblegum bands using industrial ideas in what is still basically pop music, I just shake my head and think, “They just don’t get it.” The idea wasn’t to create new rock music, but to end it and drive a stake through its broken, barely beating heart.

It was the end of a century filled with genocide, world wars, racism, torture, failed heroism, and lost dreams. Even the promise of true love we heard about in rock music was cut short by the AIDS epidemic and a 50% divorce rate. The punk/new wave revolution ended as bad pop music, with the popularity of A Flock of Seagulls, A-Ha, and Culture Club. It was a time to retreat; a small brotherhood wanted to play this thing out in a way that was fitting for this monster we called rock’n’roll.

Industrial did everything wrong on purpose. We revived Martin Denny, the Hawaiian based musician who used birdcalls in his EZ listening music because it was more interesting to us than anything rock offered. LSD was taken by the handful to induce bad trips and Alistair Crowley-style magick was used simply because it scared people (in case you’re wondering, it’s an interesting philosophy of warmed over Nietzsche, and if you’re not looking for something supernatural, it worked on the odd occasion). Hendrix taught us that feedback was as viable to electronic music as Stravinsky’s dissonance was to acoustic music, William S. Burroughs showed us how cut-up theory could create beauty out of random texts, and Pink Floyd proved that you didn’t need a music degree to create symphonic-sized works.

In the process a lot of people stumbled over brilliant ideas, whether it was the tribalism that came with the improvisation of banging on cans (something they didn’t bother to teach us in school) or the uses of digital sound, pioneered by Chris Carter, of Throbbing Gristle – The Beatles of our generation.

Along with Carter, there was his partner, Cosey Fanni Tutti, a performance artist and nude model that once did an exhibition of her used maxi-pads and pornographic photos – it got the attention of Parliament. Cosey made noises on guitar, bass, and horns, though she never understood how to play any of them. After the break-up of Throbbing Gristle, they would go on to fame as leaders of the acid house and danse movement as Chris & Cosey.

Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson was a photographer and designer who worked with Hipgnosis, the firm that did Pink Floyd’s covers – Christopherson is credited with designing the “Animals” album. He primarily manipulated sound with tapes, and went on to fame as the leader of Coil.

The frontman was Genesis P-Orridge, a performance artist who was obsessed with S&M, the occult, Fascist propaganda, serial killers, torture, and everything else his mother warned him against. A lot of his contributions were snotty readings of cut-up nonsense that sounded spooky. He went on to front Psychic TV, and his “cult,” Thee Temple of Psychic Youth, and he got heavily into body modification – he recently had female breast implants added to his already mutilated body.

From their modest beginnings in 1975 through the five years of their existence Throbbing Gristle released four classic albums, each very different from one another; “Second Annual Report,” “D.O.A.” “20 Jazz Funk Greats,” and “Heathen Earth.” Even more works came out once they disbanded, and a suitcase of cassettes was also offered featuring all of their live shows, 24 hours worth!

Throbbing Gristle seemed to break up just as the glory days of Industrial kicked in, when bands like Nurse with Wound, Whitehouse, Test Department, and Cabaret Voltaire started coming out of the woodworks. Now, after a quarter of a century, Throbbing Gristle has just released their first album of new material, “Part Two- The Endless Not” (Mute Records) and it’s a masterpiece.

The difference in the new album is the sense of maturity, not to mention a broader spectrum of sound. Hearing a 24-year-old Genesis mumble about the world hardly holds a candle to the screams of a middle-aged, embattled Genesis after a quarter century of assaulted dreams. Sleazy, Chris and Cosey have learned how to manipulate their sounds like the old masters they have become of electronic music.

One of the great moments one the album is “Almost a Kiss,” where Carter practically orchestrates the song with Cosey’s angelic disembodied voices, Sleazy’s noise is tempered to industrial moans and Genesis sings about a horrible relationship with total disgust, verging on something almost emotional - at least for this group. The album ends with “After The Fall,” a Sleazy piece that sounds like a broken music box lost in the “Eraserhead” soundtrack.

Throbbing Gristle was there before the beginning, and now has a final statement after the end. They were gothic before there was such a movement, more punk than any punk band every though about getting, and modifying their bodies back when only rednecks had tattoos. “Part Two – The Endless Not” is not a trip down memory lane; it’s a great statement by the former novices who have returned as the grand magicians of true Industrial music. After all the posers, it’s nice to have the real thing.

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