Those who recall 1986’s TV series Edge Of Darkness will remember the moment when Joe Don Baker’s maverick CIA agent takes to the podium and produces a block of plutonium, brandishing it aloft, scattering the room. There are parallels between that act of showmanship and that of Throbbing Gristle. No one was ever in mortal danger at a TG gig, though they did boast of deploying sonic frequencies which could make the listener physically shit themselves. They were often accused of being out to shock for shock’s sake, deliberately harvesting tabloid epithets like “wreckers of civilisation” for their apparently salacious use of porn or Holocaust references (“Zyklon B Zombie”). However, shock was merely the byproduct of their agenda. Their real purpose was graphically to present to their audience the implications of the society in which they lived, and thereby jolt them out of their docile passivity. Throbbing Gristle weren’t amusical opportunists but highly moral and, incidentally, highly influential.
Always wishing to exact a toll on their listenership, TG were true to their traditions in prefacing their comeback with two packages of unremittingly scabrous live material, in 24-hour and 10-hour packages respectively. However, a ‘proper’ reintroduction is appropriate at this time as they prepare to regroup. Here, new fans will find a surprising blend of chromium-clean proto-synth-pop (“Distant Dreams?Part Two”) interspersed with filthily radioactive, elongated bursts of noise like “Cabaret Voltaire”?sheer sonic S&M. There’s self-abasing scatology (“Something Came Over Me”). There are even ‘love songs’, though TG were apt to de-and re-construct gender relationships