Tanner Babcock

  1. Opinions
  2. Music Reviews

Throbbing Gristle (Psychic TV)

Return to Music ReviewsAbout These ReviewsRandom Music Page

Year Title Rating
1977 The Second Annual Report 6.5/10
1978 D.o.A. The Third and Final Report 7.5/10
1979 20 Jazz Funk Greats 8/10
1980 Heathen Earth 6.5/10
1981 Mission of Dead Souls 6/10
1982 Psychic TV - Force the Hand of Chance .../...
1982 Journey Through a Body 7/10
1983 Psychic TV - Dreams Less Sweet 8/10
1984 In the Shadow of the Sun 7/10
1984 Psychic TV - A Pagan Day .../...
1984 Psychic TV - Those Who Do Not .../...
1985 Psychic TV - Mouth of the Night .../...
1986 CD1 7/10
1988 Psychic TV - Allegory and Self .../...
1988 Psychic TV - Jack the Tab - Acid Tablets Volume One .../...
1988 Psychic TV - Tekno Acid Beat .../...
1989 Psychic TV - Kondole .../...
1991 Psychic TV - Direction Ov Travel .../...
1991 Psychic TV - Ultrahouse: The L.A. Connection .../...
1992 Psychic TV - Cold Dark Matter 6.5/10
1993 Psychic TV - Peak Hour .../...
1994 Psychic TV - A Hollow Cost .../...
1994 Psychic TV - Cathedral Engine .../...
1994 Psychic TV - Sugarmorphoses .../...
1995 Psychic TV - Breathe .../...
2001 >>The First Annual Report .../...
2007 >>Part Two: The Endless Not .../...
2009 >>The Third Mind Movements .../...
2012 X-TG - Desertshore 7/10
2014 Psychic TV - Snakes .../...
2016 Psychic TV - Alienist .../...

Review last updated: January 30, 2022

72 Views

Throbbing Gristle was one of the most influential figures in recorded music. They made music that was the antithesis of what most artists want for themselves - not beautiful music, or stylized music, or even traditionally composed music, but the opposite: ugly, atonal, offbeat, disgusting, abrasive nightmares. This was their protest not only against the music industry, but capitalism, consumerism, and colonialism. The quartet were Genesis P-Orridge (died 2020), Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson (died 2010), Cosey Fanni Tutti, and Chris Carter. This quartet is single-handedly responsible for spheres of influence, they were responsible for naming industrial music "industrial" music, they forged completely new and fresh ideas that were not dependent on the context of any one genre. I can name at least ten artists off the top of my head who owe their careers and every dollar they've ever made to this collective, and for some I can tell you how they knew of Throbbing Gristle. As their name would suggest, the subject matter of Throbbing Gristle would lead you to believe that this is something rotten, obscure, something that slipped through the cracks of society, vultures festering on morbid things. They have multiple songs about prostitution and pornography, medical failures and amputees, as well as references to war and child abuse. What made them unique was their use of synthesizers and early, primitive electronic equipment. While those unfamiliar might think I am talking about a rock band, Throbbing Gristle really had no genre, they were too "out there" to have a genre, and they debuted during a time when synthesizers were reserved for the likes of Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. But most of their associations would have you place them in a corner of rock music in United Kingdom in the '70s. They were determined to create a sound that was like a reflection of what you hear in your environment in modern, industrialized society - trains, assembly lines, buses, engines, forklifts, cars honking, car radios, TV sets. Machines. Pistons. Gears grinding.

"Industrial music for industrial people" was the slogan for Industrial Records, a company that released every Throbbing Gristle album. The sounds and aesthetics that bleed from Throbbing Gristle, at any stage of their career, are not what you would necessarily expect, and not something that's easy to show other people. Their first LP sounds like it was recorded by a handheld tape recorder that was in a suitcase under a desk at the bottom of the river 5 blocks from the club they were performing in - that is to say, "lo-fi" would be an understatement, this is more like "no-fi". I do know almost all of their first album, The Second Annual Report of Throbbing Gristle, was recorded live, and it contains a minute-long meltdown of the group's performers, while they get heckled and jeered at by their audience. "You're just idiots!" "You're so bloody ignorant, it's unbelievable!" The audience snaps back at him, and eventually the sound man plays the group off the stage with common rock music. That is the mark of a true artist, and their decision to include that short recording was especially a bold choice. "Hey everybody, look how bad we sucked. Look how much people hated us. Yeah, that's us." They had 7-inch singles of more cohesive songs, and before they were able to produce an LP, they distributed their own cassettes.

Their second album, D.o.A. The Third and Final Report is a little more accessible, because the group had gained access to a real studio and professional-quality recording equipment. Every song on their second album was different from the others. Some were dancy synthesizer beats, some were atmospheric nightmares with spoken words, some were based on samples and various kinds of generated noise. This is where you get their hit "Hamburger Lady", and the songs "Hometime", "AB/7A", "Hit by a Rock" are also highlights.

In 1979, on their most famous album, the deceptively titled 20 Jazz Funk Greats, they mastered the art of creepy, grimy, and scary. Many of their vocals are seductive whispers, while others are brutal shouts. Their abrasive and decidedly non-musical songs were not something anyone at that time was capable of imagining. The songs that actually have synth beats and musical structures, also have a kind of atonal singing or chanting, or other disturbing noises to accompany them. This is Throbbing Gristle's first, and one of their only albums, that was recorded entirely in the studio. This is possibly why it is their most well-known. Not only was the title a mislead, so was the album art: A happy picture of a group of four white people, dressed nicely on a hillside, with nice lettering for the album title. What is not immediately known when you look at the picture, is that the picture was taken at Beachy Head, a well-known suicide spot. I believe this to be somewhat symbolic of the lie that capitalist society sells : a happy and promising picture for a product that is not at all what you expected. This is also the first we see of the signature early industrial sense of humor, the dry sarcastic humor that brings us albums like The Sylvie and Babs Hi-Fi Companion and artists like Einsturzende Neubauten. The highlights here are "Hot on the Heels of Love", "Persuasion", "Beachy Head", "Six Six Sixties", and the bonus track "Discipline".

Even though the group actually broke up in 1980, due to the breakup of Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti, they would continue to release the long, atmospheric Journey Through a Body, the improvisations of CD1, the soundtrack for In the Shadow of the Sun, and finally, additional original songs in 2004 with their comeback album TG Now. The group would continue to tour and record for six more years, until the death of Peter Christopherson.

And now I will list all of the artists who are either directly associated with, or visibly influenced by, Throbbing Gristle. Einsturzende Neubauten, Psychic TV, Coil, Nine Inch Nails, Foetus, Nurse with Wound, Current 93, Swans, Whitehouse, Ministry, Skinny Puppy, Death in June, Merzbow, Pharmakon, Xiu Xiu, Cop Shoot Cop, Sunn O))).