Tuesday, January 28, 2003
Alexis Petridis listens to Throbbing Gristle for 24 hours straight, somehow lives to tell the tale.
On the phone from his home in Norfolk, Chris Carter sounds perturbed. "You're not planning on doing that, are you?" he asks. There's something pleasing about the note of shock in his voice. After all, Carter is a former member of Throbbing Gristle, a band that so shocked the late Tory MP Nicholas Fairbairn that he described them as "the wreckers of civilisation".
That was 26 years ago. Today, Carter's tone has hints of paternal anxiety, as befits a man whose website features photographs of him cuddling his son. "I hope you're all right," he says. "I hope your ears don't bleed or your brain turn to mush." I appreciate Carter's concern, but it is not quite the response I was hoping for when I informed him of my plan to listen to a new box set of live Throbbing Gristle CDs - 24 of them, each lasting an hour - in one go. [...]
It soon becomes apparent that Throbbing Gristle's secret weapon was not their homemade instruments (including a primitive sampler), nor P-Orridge's unique bass guitar technique, which one mortified critic compared unfavourably to that of a gorilla with its hands severed. It was P-Orridge's voice, a grating, Mancunian-accented whine that somehow manages to sound out of tune even when there is no apparent tune to be out of. His lyrics are no picnic either: gas chambers, murdering pregnant women and, on one occasion, a lengthy and disheartening improvisation about the Queen and Prince Philip having sex.
The rest is hilarious, especially the bit where he goes outside, still listening to them.