Music: Throbbing Gristle
Part Two—The Endless Not www.mute.com £13.95
When the original ‘Wreckers Of Civilisation’ declared that ‘The Mission Is Terminated’ in 1981, a legend was already in motion. It’s one that Genesis P-Orridge, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Chris Carter and Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson had been living up to since Throbbing Gristle’s notorious 1976 debut at COUM Transmissions’ ICA exhibition led Tory roustabout Nicholas Fairburn to take the moral high-ground. TG’s provocative mix of cheap n’ nasty analogue-electro-sludge and performance art terrorism continued to turn nihilism into an art-form which Punk could only cock a rusty safety-pin at.
This silver jubilee reunion fast forwards to a time where the industrial template TG set down has begat the fright-wig stadium bombast of Marilyn Manson, but which has more significantly been appropriated by today’s fertile and fanatical scuzz-house noise scene. The Endless Not is subsequently an odd and self-conscious revisiting to one-time extremities long since superseded.
As with Iggy Pop’s carefully stage-managed rehabilitation with The Stooges, any shock involved is that anyone’s alive to tell the tale of a now legitimised past. Again like Iggy, the newly pandrogynous Genesis Breyer P-Orridge is more pantomime wicked witch seemingly modelled on Eddie Izzard than corrupter of youth. Then again, who can blame TG for reclaiming what they pioneered before it was hi-jacked by leather-kecked storm-troopers in drag.
If the sledgehammer yelps of the opening ‘Vow Of Silence’ is a benchmark-setting show of strength, ‘Rabbit Snare’ is woozy cocktail-hour anti-jazz, ‘Separated’ a submerged, plastic-bag-over-the-head waltz and ‘Lyre Liar’ a punishing martial incantation that’s part violation fetish, part fascist rally. There’s no context, rhyme or reason for any of this after so long away, but with repeated plays its stark insistence makes more sense and becomes increasingly addictive.
With seven tracks credited to P-Orridge and one apiece to Tutti, Carter and Christopherson, it’s clear where much of TG’s collective energy stems from, even if each member appears to be working in artistic isolation. Beyond the squelch, the album’s quasi-conventional centrepiece is ‘Almost A Kiss,’ a wracked torch ballad sounding somewhere between moon-in-June and Death In June, and just dieing for a straight reworking, possibly by Bryan Ferry. ‘Can we rise again?’ P-Orridge desperately pleads on the title track as if to capitalise on this rebirth, still pushing towards some kind of liberation. On this outing, whippersnappers duly shown who’s in charge, the answer for Throbbing Gristle is a breathless, unrelenting yes.
Neil Cooper is a writer