Thursday, May 20, 2004

Review - The Taste of TG: A Beginner's Guide to the Music of TG

Artist: Throbbing Gristle

Posted on Thu, May 20, 2004 at 4:00 AM

The mission is terminated

What happened to "industrial" culture, anyway? How did all that grinding, post-apocalyptic sturm und drang of groups like Non and Whitehouse morph into self-obsessed, goth parody? It's hard to tell exactly, but despite the genre's currently laughable stylistic rut, it was once one of exciting counter-cultural possibilities.

Ironically, a lot of the blame for industrial's demise can be laid squarely on the shoulders of one of its founders, Genesis P-Orridge. Despite P-Orridge's early groundbreaking work with Throbbing Gristle, his rabid intellectual hunger somehow led him to believe that ritualism equals rave, spawning the bassy trance of Psychic TV. Though he continues to be an articulate spokesperson (who's declined to continue being a "he" in favor of his new "pandrogynous" state), the acid-house movement he pioneered with Psychic TV soon turned into a cult of tab-licking dropouts, while P-Orridge moved on to help lepers in Tibet and become a pre-eminent source on extreme body modification.

Listening to "Taste," it's shocking how shocking this music still is. Flagrantly violating all the precepts laid down for popular music, TG thumbed their nose at both punk's "anyone can do it" ethos and the academic notions of avant-garde music to emerge with something that culled the best (and scariest) elements of both. Tracks like "Zyklon B Zombie" and "Hamburger Lady" are songs only in the broadest sense, depending on undulating cacophony and droning chants for their impact. White noise, deep and fractured rhythms, cut-and-splice "samples" and a healthy dose of "we don't know what the fuck we're doing" congeal into sound sculptures that rip away preconceptions in such a way that, surrendering to the bleakness seems the only way out.

Nitzer Ebb, it ain't.


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