Throbbing Gristle: Part Two. The Endless Not

At those moments when Genesis P-Orridge's moaning croak crawls across a funereal blues, you'll feel like you've been dragged down to hell. But what'd you expect? This is Throbbing Gristle, after all, back from a seeming grave twenty-seven years after its last album, Heathen Earth. An historical overview of the band's history is in order but, as Part Two. The Endless Not is what interests me, not what happened fifteen years ago, my version will be brief.

By common consensus, group members Chris Carter, Cosey Fanni Tutti, P-Orridge, and Peter Christopherson, founders of Industrial Records and considered by some to be the premiere industrial group, left an indelible mark with their extreme and uncompromising performances and fearless electronic explorations. The group disbanded in 1981, with P-Orridge and Christopherson forming Psychic TV (Christopherson later forming Coil) and Carter and Fanni Tutti establishing themselves as Chris & Cosey. The four reunited in 2004 for a weekend festival that collapsed but, rather than splintering again, the four convened for Part Two. The Endless Not. Those familiar with Throbbing Gristle's output might expect the new album to be an overwhelming sonic and emotional experience. In fact, while it is challenging, it's also more accessible than one might have expected. Don't get the wrong idea: there's no shortage of possessed industrial-electronic settings (coagulant slabs of shredded howls and animal cries arc across relentlessly churning machine rhythms in “Greasy Spoon”) and the vocal pieces are disturbing too but that's as it should be.

“Vow of Silence” inaugurates the collection with a marching parade of grinding rhythms, electronic sludge, keening jungle howl, and deep-throated moaning—Throbbing Gristle's open-wounded version of the blues. “Rabbit Snare” paints a noir-like picture of a Twin Peaks-styled jazz lounge replete with the muted wail of Fanni Tutti's cornet, a curdling brushed drum pulse, and P-Orridge's desperate drool (“Is this insidious? / Kind of ridiculous”) shadowed by a hellish choir. In the black blues “Almost a Kiss,” an elegant synthetic backing anchors an unhinged vocal performance of impassioned wails and screams while “Lyre Liar,” the most extreme of the album's ten pieces, is a grotesque and purposefully ugly howl of eight minute duration. Is Part Two. The Endless Not a money-grab? Nostalgia trip? Whatever the motivations, the material's hardly commercial though it will likely bring new fans aboard as well as be a sufficiently powerful lure for the still-curious faithful.

June 2007