Friday, May 16, 2003


(I'm gonna try and polish the rest of this off asap so's I can move on, and not make a sissy fuss about the 16 or so songs I've added since I started this - sometimes the only rock and roll I can relate to is the rock I endlessly roll up that goddamned hill of beans of mine...)

8. I'll cop to it - Throbbing Gristle was (is) a scam. Buncha pretentioid art-gits with a rare gift for making decadence and deviance seem kinda boring - heck, Genesis P-Orridge turned up in a recent issue of Musiq sporting a brand-new set of Richard Speck (no-)funbags and managed to look like Eddie Izzard imitating my Aunt Barbara, a vision that sounds at the very least diverting but was met by me with a yawn wide enough that my jaw became unhinged and I almost swallowed the cat. Artists? Sure, bullshit artists, albeit with a line of patter that all mod conmen would be happy to call their own; their third of the Burroughs/Gysin/Gristle issue of RE/Search way back in '81 was, when I first read it at age eighteen, an embarrassment of conceptual/philosphical riches (though the real embarrassment came when I tried re-reading it two years ago and discovered what an easy mark I was back then - I swear to God, if there'd been some bohemian death cult recruiters walking around Harvard Square in 1989, I'd've been dead from an arsenic latte long ago). And all this was quite exciting to me, especially since the only music of theirs I'd heard at the time was a two-minute fragment of something (to this day, I'm not sure what) heard through the weak signal of a far-off college radio station at the age of 13, which was so unlike anything I'd ever heard that I rushed to capture the last thirty seconds of it on tape just to prove I hadn't imagined it. (When I played it back, it didn't sound so weird to me at all, which should have told me something.) I was all fired up with intellectual-subversive adrenaline six months later, therefore, when an import copy of Throbbing Gristle's Greatest Hits (Entertainment Through Pain), draped in a nicely innocuous parody of a Martin Denny album sleeve, showed up at the mall record store. Took it home, quickly scanned the Claude Bessy liner notes and Cosey Fanny Tutti's gams, practically flung the thing onto my turntable, sat back and... was given one hell of an unpleasant education. Seems the media's sometimes not nearly as interesting as the message. Turns out that all the voluminous blather about "subversion" played itself out as banal drones and groans coaxed out of synths that its owners can barely play, occasionally subjected to wild, off-the-wall tricks like - ooh, watch out - running the tape backwards or fading a track out almost as soon as it begins, usually topped off with P-Orridge's vocals, which are usually so monotonous that to call them "deadpan" would be insult to both the dead and to pans. Granted, they happened into some pretty interesting cacophony sometimes and some similarly pretty interesting near-near-pop at others, and are one of the few electronic outfits to take the term "industrial music" seriously and literally (not so surprising, given that TG actually coined the phrase), as a lot of their recordings indeed resembled the dying throes of some broken-down factory. (And their pioneering work merely laid the groundwork for the excellent work they did after TG's initial split: the surprisingly vital run of singles [one of which even made it into a Volkswagen commercial] P-Orridge promulgated in Psychic TV, Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson's scary, multi-faceted, visionary work he whipped up both as leader of Coil and as an in-demand video auteur, and Chris and Cosey, um, did stuff too.) But the fact remains that much of their work only becomes explicable once it's explained at length, often great length, and while that's served to bolster some of their intentions w/r/t an audience's perception, media manipulation, etc., none of that means much when the music, the ostensible vehicle for these statements, winds up sounding so thin, dated and quaint.

So, why, you ask, did I include "Walkabout" on my playlist? Well, it is a radio station, after all, and three minutes of pleasant synth mumbles (yep, pleasant - I'm sure that's supposed to be some kind of statement in itself, but I haven't received the 56-page statement of intent yet) make for a nice leavening element between the usual yuks, jangles, plaints and shrieks. And besides, it's a handy reminder that Jim O'Rourke's starting to run out of Nicolas Roeg-inspired album titles.

No comments: