Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Throbbing Gristle - 20 Jazz Funk Greats (1978)
I owe all of you an apology for the inexcusable lack of updates. I could say that I've been busy with school and work and various side projects, all of which would be true, but the real reason is that I just haven't been motivated to write about music lately. Today, however, one of my favorite music related websites, Progarchives, decided to add Throbbing Gristle to their database (a poor decision, I think, but oh well) and I feel compelled to contribute a review.
Throbbing Gristle are frequently and quite correctly credited for inventing the genre we commonly know as "industrial." Their abrasive, post-punk, nihilist noisemaking ushered in a whole generation of lienated misanthropes who felt they could relate to machines better than to their fellow human beings. After several albums of relentlessly abrasive material, however, TG decided to go another direction on "20 Jazz Funk Greats." The title is obviously tongue in cheek, but there is a grain of truth behind it. This is certainly TG's jazziest, as well as their funkiest record. Most of the tracks are laid back and subtle. hey are still just as menacing as ever, but this time the threat is more akin to being slowly poisoned rather than stabbed in the face.
Chris Carter's subdued electronics, trending ever closer towards straightforward dance music are heavily utilized here, but everything sounds far away and cloaked in a mysterious English fog. Geneis P-Orridge is as creepy as ever with his deadpan ramblings, the standout being the genuinely disturbing "Convincing People." One track entitled "Exotica" gives a clue to the inspiration for the album. There is indeed an element of Martin Denny and Les Baxter's method of creating evocative palettes designed to take the listener away to distant and exotic locales, although here this time it will not be anywhere so safe and welcoming as Polynesia. There's even a vibraphone to complete the tribute.
My favorite track on the album is the borderline mainstream "Hot on the Heels of Love." It is a perfectly produced slice of rhythmic electronica that could easily have been a club hit. It also features the all too rarely heard oice of Cosey, the groups only female member, breathily repeating the words "hot on the heels of love / waiting for help from above" in a tantalizing whisper.
"20 Jazz Funk Greats" is not Throbbing Gristle's best work, but it is an easy jumping off point for beginners, who might be a little intimidated by the band's more aggressive material. More importantly, this is the album that really shows just how influential TG were. Together with Kraftwerk (and maybe Tangerine Dream and Gary Numan) this album played a defining role in shaping the sound of modern electronica.