Monday, June 04, 2007

Throbbing Gristle, ICA, LONDON, 01.06.07


When these performance-art electro-punks last played the ICA, in 1976, their show, Prostitution, caused a debate in parliament and nearly had the venerable arts foundation’s funding cut. Now, over 30 years later, Genesis P. Orridge and co wear specs, speak softly and fiddle exclusively with computers.

This is billed as a public recording session, and the amateurishness of the band, which they have always proudly displayed, is a little depressing to watch in the flesh. They are recording a version of Nico’s 1970 album Desertshore, but seem woefully ill-equipped to do any such thing. It becomes quickly apparent that the audience is simply being conned — an old punk trick immortalised by Johnny Rotten’s heckle from the stage of the Winterland in San Francisco: “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

But there’s still interest here, despite the fact that hopelessly inept DIY music stopped having any intrinsic meaning decades ago. It’s extraordinary to see Genesis P. Orridge in the flesh. S/he (that’s what s/he likes to be called) used to be a man, and is now a gravel-voiced, deeply unnerving sort of woman. And their trademark industrial sound, which has inspired countless dance music acts, is still genuinely unsettling. It’s also interesting to hear them take on Nico, who for all her oddness always held onto a tune. Throbbing Gristle aren’t used to dealing with continuous melodies, and the clangs and clashes of their warehouse sound meld successfully with Genesis’ vocals, producing something approaching harmony.

On the other hand, you have to be a die-hard fan to think that this live recording session is worth paying money to watch. Any musician will tell you that recording can be a tedious, repetitive business. It’s especially so when the band members are devoted to cancelling out any modicum of craftsmanship in their music. It seems the punk spirit never dies.

4 comments:

Stuart Turnbull said...

What a load of old twaddle spouted by Mr William Brett in his blog.

e.g. "especially so when the band members are devoted to cancelling out any modicum of craftsmanship in their music."
What exactly does consitute 'craft', then, these days? if not the constructing of music through computers, like all and sundry. Or is Mr Brett an acoustic purist?

Has Brett actually ever listened to Throbbing Gristle LPs? Or is he yet another google journo, surfing others' opinions and pasting them into righteous gobbledegook.

Also, "It becomes quickly apparent that the audience is simply being conned — an old punk trick immortalised by Johnny Rotten’s heckle from the stage of the Winterland in San Francisco: “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”"

Trick?
It was neither Rotten's nor Throbbing Gristle's intention to 'con' or 'cheat' their audiences – TG's audience knew, and were previously informed, of what they'd get from the outset.
And Rotten was referring to the boredom of the rock concert/tour/interviews/encores/repetitive format that he and cohorts found themselves embroiled in. The 'cheated' in the Sex Pistols' case was the band and band members themselves... they had come to the end of their tether. They were bored; they were baffled by people's interest in their shoddy shows.

The notion that Throbbing Gristle never wrote a tune or melody is incorrect. They made sheets of noise, yes, but there were also plenty of tunes peppering their LPs, and singles.

As for: "Nico, who for all her oddness always held onto a tune." Oh, dear; how the dear departed one must glow at such praise.

Lastly, did Brett pay to go to this, like the other people there, including me and my wife, who all applauded at the end? Unlikely.

Stuart Turnbull

Anna Evans said...

"On the other hand, you have to be a die-hard fan to think that this live recording session is worth paying money to watch."

Die-hard fan, Stuart?

Anonymous said...

Turnbull here...
Not at all a, 'Die Hard fan'. I've never really rated Bruce Willis as an actor. Chuck Norris wipes the floor with him for action movie moves.
As for Throbbing Gristle, nope, not a fan, but find what they do, and their stance very interesting. Very honest. Especially when the whole world and his dog seems to be a Major label sucker these days. Whatever happened to being independent, eh? They're all sucking at the Major nipple.

Anonymous said...

HAHA. what a load of bullshit. consider switching to another medium, boy.