Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Throbbing Gristle- Second Annual Report (1977): 77%

Halloween is coming. My favorite holiday. And as much as your humble author would like to spend the upcoming weeks glued to the chair, watching old B-Z grade cult horror films like I do every year, I have essays to write, academic articles on political advertising to read, and tackle the every day demands of 4 college classes. Most of which requires a lot of writing. So I guess this review will act as good practice for me. Problem is, I really don’t know if I stopped writing about albums because I was bored with it, or if I really could not think of anything to say about any album I was listening to. Or if I was truly preoccupied with learning how to become an excruciatingly boring academic researcher. So I think I’ll ease myself back into it and discuss a recent favorite of mine I haven’t really listened to in a while. You know, good ol’ fashioned nightmare music. Just in time for the Halloween season.

Right now I’m listening to “Slug Bait- Live At Brighton,” which is the fourth track. Its sound is haunting my brain, and now in “Maggot Death- Live at Rat Club” it’s using the same nightmarish noises to warp the grey matter beyond recognition. This is not an album to take lightly; in the former track, an audio sample of a child muderer’s confession to police is especially unsettling. Then again, I could make the same argument for every track on this album. The whole damn thing is damaging to any psyche, and prolonged exposure to it means you like it, therefore you’re either morose people like me or its creators:

Peter Christopherson (programming, tape manipulations) first, mostly because I read moments before writing that he did the photography to Pink Floyd’s album cover for Animals. Beside that, working with other people (mostly through music videos) like Trent Reznor (the infamous Broken movie), Sepultura, Danzig, Rage Against the Machine, Ministry, and even commercials for McDonald’s. Sounds eclectic considering this is one of four members who put together tracks like “Slug Bait- ICA,” which details the murder of a seven-months pregnant woman and her husband (I would discuss lyrics here, but if you really want to know, I would rather you look them up for yourself).

Genesis P-Orridge, (Neil Megson; morbid utterings, bass feedback distortion) whose grandmother was an occultist and is himself one.

Cosey Fanni Tutti (guitar mutilations), a former stripper and pornography star who is married to fellow TG member:

Chris Carter (electronics, screeches, and other zapping noises). So, as you can see, we have uniquely creepy and effective credibility among these merry band of four.

Now keep in mind: these are just ordinary people who made this record. Listen to it; I truly dare you to, and it is an album that is meant to be dare-worthy. And don’t let the 20 minute running time to “After Cease to Exit” discourage you. Think of it as a total immersion into their world for a while. The first half of the album goes pretty quickly, which gives you a solid foundation for a good first impression, but it is that 20 minute odyssey that acts as the real purpose as to why the album was made. It’s also the title of the song that really says it all about the avant-garde composition to the song. What you hear could really be the sounds of the afterlife created by those who quite possibly have experienced it.  

Because when you consider the plain cover and the fact that it is one of the pioneers of Industrial music, a term TG themselves coined, you begin to appreciate just how inventive this album really is. Sure, the average white-bread conservative will be repulsed by its content, but anybody with a modicum of appreciation for darker material will understand it. Being one of the first Industrial records, it strives to establish just what that is: somewhere between experimental, hardcore punk, and electronic music, as well as incorporating the band’s supremely demented quirks and tastes for sounds never committed to tape before.

Naturally whenever a band is the first to set a following for a respectable genre, the first album is bound to carry some praise with it. Which holds true to my opinion of the album. But no matter where its placement is in the Throbbing Gristle catalogue, the album still sounds like just that: a blueprint. The substance is there, and so is the expression of ideas and possibilities, but the quality of the sound aches to be mixed a bit better so these sounds can be enjoyed properly. However, if one were to go all the way and buy the vinyl, or even the CD, be prepared to grind an axe for when you have to cut your arm to get one (most CD copies go for $25 and up, vinyl about twice that).

Is it worth that much of a price tag? Since I deeply admire Throbbing Gristle, I want to say yes, but this music is truly only for those who understand the intents and purposes of experimental music mixed with disturbing overtones. I have dropping blatant hints that this would make a great birthday or Christmas gift to my parents who seem reluctant to get this for me. I don’t blame them; besides being expensive as hell, it truly is one of a kind in terms of provoking art.

Music: 8
Length: 8
Lyrics: 7
Significance: 8
Meaning: 7
Overall Impression: 8

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