X-TG – Desertshore/Final Report (Industrial)
So I’ve heard people refer to this as the emperor with no clothes. The original Throbbing Gristle would likely be quite comfortable naked and covered in menstrual blood but the TG that returned were (mostly) wise old folks. Their recent performances, while musically interesting, were lacking any pretence of ‘entertainment’, being conducted like laboratory experiments under harsh lighting. I’ve always been a fan of the late Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson. Through his image work for Hipgnosis, his MTV music video career and of course his compositions with TG, Psychic TV, Coil, Soisong, Threshold Houseboys Choir all resonate with intense depth of passion, love and intellect. While I might not always understand the muse, I could appreciate the nuance and craft.
Desertshore is intricate and sonically interesting, yet it remains at times curiously passionless – like an exercise to be endured. If this perhaps sounds like something journalists were saying about the original classic Nico album, well maybe you could argue it is intentional. There is however the problem that this was essentially Peter’s idea, finished after his death, by Chris (Carter) and Cosey (Fanni Tutti). They have attempted to piece together what he was intending and the problems lie not with their expert arrangement and mixing but with how their work mixes with the guest spots. Blixa Bargeld, who of course I love in Einsturzende Neubauten and The Bad Seeds, comes across like a overbearing general, his rigid delivery emphasising the relentless dirge. That said, ‘Abschied’ sounds like a decent outtake from Horse Rotorvator and ‘Mütterlein’ features the bizarre effect of hearing his voice forced through Islamic prayer speaker distortion. As far as I can tell, ‘Afraid’ has no such positives. It is a heroin-addled Residents fan… a slow delirious thunk made duller by Sasha Grey’s repetitive blurtings that reach for Lydia Lunch but end up strung-out in the dust as the Pigface tour bus drives off.
They are for me the low points, the rest is good to great. Antony’s opening ‘Janitor Of Lunacy’ fits perfectly, his spirited croon flitting sensuously between Arthur Russell and Scott Walker backed by Blue-Lines-era Massive Attack. ‘Le Petit Chevalier’ is entertainingly obliterated into granular shards as Gaspar Noe growls and sputters in a fairly predictable Industrial fashion. The Marc Almond track may sound marginally too Depeche Mode for this Coil fan but an undeniably beautiful arrangement and complimentary vocals uplift the material in a way that the Blixa/Sasha stuff really doesn’t.
Cosey’s tracks are the glue that links TG past and present to this otherwise obtuse covers album. Her dreamy vocal shows Sasha how to really sell a disaffected style without being a dreary bore. ‘Janitor Of Lunacy’ has all the mechanical menace of a good Nine Inch Nails track but lacks the predictable march of alterna-metal. ‘My Only Child’ is a melancholy, but ultimately uplifting, lullaby that might have come from Broadcast’s Trish Keenan had things been different. The initial album ends with an extra track ‘Desertshores’ where a group of their friends pay tribute to Sleazy over a Paul Stretch drone – a fitting gesture that works as a bridge between Desertshores and The Final Report
The Final Report is the sweet meat. If you liked Carter/Tutti/Void then this should be on your radar. It is way more varied but equally dense, and compared to the cautious build-to-frenzy of Desertshore, it’s a party jam, smirking openly as it joins the conga line. Martin Denny exotica and melodica dub don’t stop it from being the expected abstract noise-fest, but the absence of their killjoy fair-weather friend Neil Andrew Megson means The Final Report avoids being a maudlin exercise in doom semantics. Rather, it is a festive crowd, happily pushing the boat out, turning away smiling.