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Throbbing Gristle - Heathen Earth CD (album) cover


Throbbing Gristle

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4 stars Killing monotony

This Throbbing Gristle album takes the riveting and heathen antics of the band and throws them into the very heart of the production. TG were always about metal, sweat, blood and sex stuffed together in one big hairy ball of uncomfortable silence and unnerving screeching. On Heathen Earth the band has invited a huge gathering of close friends and degenerates to come join them in the studio for a good wank and maybe a couple of beers. I am not kidding here, because this gig was also recorded onto film - showing these night creatures in full floral power watching porn on a TV residing comfortably up on stage...

The music itself is as creepy and industrial as ever - with Cosey Fan Tutte's cornet sounding particularly lonesome and beautifully dreary. That thing slices through the airwaves like a sharp dove! Then when you pair it together with the tumultuous electronics that more than anything sound like the ghosts of dead bees, the cornet suddenly turns supernatural and free - clinging onto every invisible surface within the music like some sort of sonic glue. So beautiful.

The main proponents of these two cuts are the dark universe of one Bill Burroughs, Captain Clark the ferry man, the number 23 and every little thing you can think of crossing these nonsensical things in an endless array of loony tirades. This is surely the real McCoy, and if you are sitting out there thinking about that crappy Jim Carrey movie with all the freakishly weird occurrences featuring the number 23 - then throw it in the river instantly, lock yourself in a darkened room for a day and play this thing over and over again. 23 will never have the same meaning again and you may have developed a fear of electronic music that sounds like it was made to woo old warehouses.

Apart from the obvious cling clangy ingredients of any Throbbing Gristle album, there is still that omnipresent power hiding underneath it all. Some kind of provocative presence that laughs at death with eyes full of madness and a big frothing smirk on its face... Heathen Earth is no stranger to this particular trade, if anything, I'd say that it stands as one of the band's most artistically successful statements. Taking the grey and monotonous cement reality of the 1980s and adding soar thumbs and blood red colours in shimmering static television noise. It's about infusing life in the worthless - resurrecting the alarmingly safe and twisting it around into something altogether more rambunctious and perverted. French kissing the vicar and painting his house gorgeously pink.

To most people, I figure Heathen Earth will come off as music without any real course - a journey into a world of melted signposts where every road and significant land mark remains utterly blurred and unrecognisable....... That is essentially the truth, but then again this blurry world view, where things seem stranger than fiction, was also what some of the psychedelic 60s bands were trying to hint at as well - taking ordinary household names and everyday objects - spinning them around and mystifying them through the power of music. Well, that is exactly what this music is about. Sure, you get fed a stark black industrial universe with hovering smouldering lava oozings of synthesised sound, babbling insane ramblings and those effervescent cornet touches, yet everything is still rooted in that grey everyday world of never-ending white striped roads, cracked windows and eroding houses that stink of death and old mattresses...

Report this review (#835494)
Posted Tuesday, October 9, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars A super dark album that begins with a deeply unsettling coronet played through a strange flanging effect unit. The gates of hell then open up as Genesis P. Orridge opens his big blubbery dead pan lips.

This LP is very much of its time but carries one hell of a punch even in 2013. Recorded live in the studio with a youthful John Balance (of future 'Coil' fame) looking on in admiration, I still have the rotten quality video of the event itself and therefore have a somewhat biased view towards this recording. It's an unhealthy, sexually deviant, dark and foreboding state of affairs. The audience in the studio look as awkward as the band as all keep their heads down in what could be mistaken as embarrassment. What is created is one of the darkest and most threatening albums I've ever heard.

Thrashing electronics and massively deteriorated guitars batter about wildly as P, Orridge delivers his vocals in that 'lifeless zombie' like manner that he is renowned for. The only lead vocalist with a dead soul. You've only got to look at his face - even when he smiles he looks like he's smelling a crate full of dead fish.

Large echoing effects are used on all instruments during 'The World is a War Film' in which events turn much darker. Incessantly doomy vocals are at the forefront with talk of impending catastrophe and armageddon spouting from Genesis P. Orridge in one of his more bellicose outpourings. It's all wonderful stuff where the lyrics include the unforgettable 'The human race is disgusting, a disgusting race to be eaten by flames'. These are words that have stuck in my mind for 25 years.

Thankfully there's a bit of respite with Chris Carter on keyboards playing the very electronic 'Dream Machine' as all sorts of electronic tweakery play about in the background. All four members played equal parts in 'Throbbing Gristle' from beginning to end. There was never a case of vocalist takes centre stage. In a way I think that's why they were so successful.

There's some weird vocal play on 'Still Walking' where very dodgy sexual antics are described but are so warped that it's difficult to tell exactly what's being said.

R2D2 makes a star appearance in 'Don't Do As You're Told' which appears to have been written for the Droid hospital scene in 'Star Wars'. Big stomps of electronica repeat themselves as airy coronet floats about the damaged robots entrails. The dead vocals of Genesis P.Orridge work a treat. He sounds like a spectre and I think that helped Throbbing Gristle in many ways.

Throbbing Gristle were a band where all four disfunctional members performed as a perfect team, in the right time, in the right place.

Report this review (#1083732)
Posted Saturday, November 30, 2013 | Review Permalink
2 stars Throbbing Gristle recorded an intimidating number of their early live shows, but the twin issues of less advanced live recording technology (particularly at their budget) and highly variable recording conditions meant that the resulting mass of cassette releases ended up being highly variable in quality. Heathen Earth seems to have been an attempt to produce a "definitive" live album by simply not quite recording it live; by performing in their own studio before a select group of fans, they could control the recording conditions far better than they could in some unfamiliar sports hall somewhere.

That said, I think the exercise reveals Throbbing Gristle as a band of emperors without clothes; it feels less than the sum of its parts, like their particular noise-sickness industrial schtick had already run its course. The impending breakup and reconfiguration into various subsequent projects could not have come at a better time.

Report this review (#1611191)
Posted Wednesday, September 14, 2016 | Review Permalink

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