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Throbbing GristleThrobbing Gristle
Heaven, London
Sunday June 21 2009



There's something indefinably wrong about a night club with all the house lights full on.

This isn't how it's supposed to look: stark, demystified, all the after-dark glamour banished in a harsh glare of white light. And yet that's what Heaven looks like tonight. The usual fancy club lighting has been switched off; the bright white work lights are blazing uncompromisingly throughout the venue. Evey bit of scuffed paintwork, every dusty corner is thrown into sharp relief. Heaven, usually one of London's glitziest gay clubs, looks very down to earth tonight.

But this is just the way Throbbing Gristle like it. Well, you wouldn't expect this band to play something as conventional as a normal gig. Because terms such as 'band' and 'gig' are very relative concepts when we're talking about Throbbing Gristle. Essentially a collective of non-musicians who decided, back in the 1970s, to make art with sound, Throbbing Gristle invented the concept of 'industrial' music, and thereby named a genre that spawned a multitude of sins.

But you can't beat a bit of original sin, so here we are, under the bright white lights, ready for Throbbing Gristle to get it on.

In their original incarnation, Throbbing Gristle dealt in shock-horror imagery and punishing noise, pushing at the boundaries of what was acceptable. Now, of course, nothing is shocking, noise is just another genre, and everything is acceptable. Rather than flog their old horse round the circuit again, Throbbing Gristle have saddled up a new horse...and its name is The Groove.

Pulses of sound Throbbing Gristleshudder out of the PA; the beat scatters and gathers. It's not like TG have gone disco or anything - well, not quite. But even the grim litany that is the band's paean to the Moors murderers, 'Very Friendly', sounds like an other-worldly trance workout tonight. 'Convincing People' is a hypnotic exercise in rhythm, and when Genesis P-Orridge lays into a violin for an extravagance of treated noise - battling it out with Cosey Fanni Tutti's equally treated slide guitar as the beat pounds implacably in the background - it's as if TG hit that nexus where The Groove meets The Noise bang on the nose.

By no means conventional rock stars, the four members of TG still bring their own personas to the party. Genesis P-Orridge, the master of ceremonies and a primitive techno-guru in auspicious orange, bops aound the stage, declaiming his words in a slightly cracked recitation. If, at times, he doesn't quite hit the note, he never misses the beat.

Cosey is cool and reserved on guitar and trumpet, dear old Sleazy is humourously avuncluar in an ermine robe, sitting at a desk laden with technology, while Chris Carter - who is, I would hazard, TG's principal music-generator, the man most responsible for what we're hearing tonight - emphasises his boffin-credentials in a white lab coat. But it's the beat that hauls it all together, the element that makes the Throbbing Gristle experience unequivocally work in the twenty-first century.

By way of a big finish, the band pitch into a monstrous rendition of 'Discipline', in which the beat builds and builds, Genesis becomes ever-more manic at the microphone, and the mighty TG groove digs its way into the foundations. If fans of Thobbing Gristle's original, confrontational, grimness-a-go-go incarnation could have peered into the future to see what TG are doing now, I suspect they'd be thunderstruck - but I bet their feet would soon start twitching. Throbbing Gristle might be an unlikely crew of groovers, but they certainly know how to throw it down at the bright light disco.


Essential links:

Throbbing Gristle:
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For more photos from this gig, find Throbbing Gristle by name here.

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  Page credits: Review, photos and construction by Michael Johnson.
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