And now for something completely different.
And no, it’s not a man with three buttocks.
But it may be just as strange.
Genesis P-Orridge may very well be the father (and mother, given his/her relationship to the concept of gender) of industrial music. P-Orridge fronted the visual-musical group Throbbing Gristle in 1975, a group that broke down all kinds of boundaries, not the least of which was the exploration of pure noise as a musical form. Music writer Simon Reynolds wrote that Throbbing Gristle’s “gigs were sadistic assaults on the audience.” Many members of the collective could not even actually play their instruments, and much of their material was completely made up on the spot. They were known for their interests in the darkest aspects of human society – fascism, murder, rape, mind control, psychopathology… and gruesome visual images in the forms of film or pictures were parts of their performances. Though sometimes the entire “show” was someone placing a tape recorder in front of a microphone and playing whatever was on the tape. You never knew what you were going to get from Throbbing Gristle.
P-Orridge formed Psychic TV with Peter Christopherson in 1982 following the demise of Throbbing Gristle, and the band immediately raised eyebrows because, well, they actually played music. They were prolific to say the least, once releasing 10 albums in a single year, and while they were much more musically inclined, they were still bizarre in a way that defies categorization. I’d been looking for a copy of this locally for a while, and finally find one in the new arrivals section at Hi-Voltage Records in Tacoma the other day… and I didn’t buy it, mostly because the jacket had some water damage. I stewed about it for a bit while Holly and I had lunch down the street before I reminded myself of my commitment to buying from local small businesses, especially record stores (don’t bitch about how there aren’t any good record stores if you don’t shop at them… that’s why they’re a dying breed), so I walked back up the street and bought it.
Those Who Do Not is a 2X12″ album released in 1984, and I have to admit I’m primarily interested in it because much of the material was recorded live in Reykjavik – it was released in the Icelandic Gramm label. There’s even some chanted rímur on side A. All I can say about this album is… wow. Industrial is probably as good a word as any, but that doesn’t do it justice. The first two sides are kind of like playing three or four different albums at the same time… some of them backwards… some of them on skipping records… and every now and then it sounds like there’s a fight or something going on.
Even the weird stuff is pretty musical. Side C opens with “The Full Pack,” and although there are some hard to identify elements that almost sound like animal noises (pigs?), it’s a relatively quiet song that is carried along by bells, chimes, and strings, with P-Orridge talking over parts of it. It’s actually quite stunning in its own way… though part way through P-Orridge all of a sudden sounds like a caged beast, like a man burdened with a deep, primal pain… until he brings it back under control in time for the song to end. Side D starts of with “Meanwhile…”… is this a Velvet Underground song? Because damn if it doesn’t hold together and have singing that sounds a lot like Lou Reed. Wild.
It’s difficult if not impossible to write about an album like Those Who Do Not – it’s something you need to experience for yourself. I will say I very much preferred the second record to the first… but that could just be because I’d gotten used to the band’s sound over the course of the first two sides. I’m not sure. But it is less industrial and more musical than the opening record, for whatever that’s worth.
There’s a good chance you’ll hate this record. Hell, I might hate this record! But I have to admit, the more I listened the more intrigued I became. It will definitely survive to spin on the turntable again another day.