The Austin Chronicle


Reviewed by Luke Winkie, February 10, 2012, Music

Throbbing Gristle

The Second Annual Report (Industrial Records LTD)
D.o.A. The Third and Final Report (Industrial Records LTD)
20 Jazz Funk Greats (Industrial Records LTD)
Heathen Earth (Industrial Records LTD)
Greatest Hits (Industrial Records LTD)

With mastermind Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson dead just over a year now and Chris Carter finishing the group's swan song, Desertshore – The Final Report, industrial-originals Throbbing Gristle reissue avant electronic music's most vital canon at a crossroads moment. At the very least, the seminal UK techno punks are living up to their ethics; reviving Industrial Records, summoning Carter for the remastering, and exhuming any lingering live recordings, B-sides, and alternate mixes. In terms of Throbbing Gristle's recording career, this aims for the final say in a reverberating saga. The headliner remains the group's only proper album, 1979's 20 Jazz Funk Greats, TG's most complete work and also most approachable. Gentle electronic interludes bracketed with mutated dub (the title track) and abstract noise ("Beachy Head"), its update by Carter reforges brittle tape into a gritty, rewarding thump. The Second Annual Report, anachronistically the band's first official release in 1977, edits bullying live performances – harsh, serrated noise, complete with audience shit-talking – with a creeping, side-long film score. D.o.A. The Third and Final Report (1978) marks TG's darkest hour, needling blasts of discord ("Dead on Arrival") harsh and legacy-making. There's also a prickly, mostly cast-off live studio LP (Heathen Earth) and an ironic Greatest Hits that gathers assorted 7-inches and notable album tracks in one place. As a collection that takes the piss out of itself in title, it's a great introduction to the band's bizarre universe. All the reissues come with a second disc of relevant oddities, usually front-loaded with live tracks that never made it on the albums. Worth mining are an alternate mix of D.o.A. gem "AB/7A" that pops optimistic and a particularly violent B-side in "Five Knuckle Shuffle," though the bonus discs are mostly completist bait. Plus, for such a visceral live act, these five double-disc sets are strangely audio-focused. No DVDs, documentaries, or many photos. It's out of character for a victory lap, but the bottom line here comes up Carter's meaty remastering, which will be plenty for the faithful masses but a harder sell for the more mindful fan since these albums haven't been out of print. Consider it a memorial to Throbbing Gristle's still-relevant reign, a final testament to a band trying very hard to get it right because it's survived long enough to get it wrong.

(Jazz Funk; D.o.A.) ****

(Second Report; Greatest Hits) ***.5

(Heathen Earth) ***

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