Abrasive, aggressive, and antagonistic, Britain's Throbbing Gristle pioneered industrial music; exploring death, mutilation, fascism, and degradation amid a thunderous cacophony of mechanical noise, tape loops, extremist anti-melodies, and bludgeoning beats, the group's cultural terrorism -- the "wreckers of civilization," one tabloid called them -- raised the stakes of artistic confrontation to new heights, combating all notions of commerciality and good taste with a maniacal fervor.
Formed in London in the autumn of 1975, Throbbing Gristle consisted of vocalist/ringleader Genesis P-Orridge, his then-lover, guitarist Cosey Fanni Tutti, tape manipulator Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson, and keyboardist Chris Carter. A performance art troupe as much as a band, their early live shows -- each starting with a punch clock and running exactly 60 minutes before the power to the stage was cut -- threatened obscenity laws; during their notorious premiere gig, P-Orridge even mounted an art exhibit consisting entirely of used tampons and soiled diapers.
Upon forming their own label, Industrial, the group issued their introductory release, The Best of Throbbing Gristle, Vol. 2, in 1976. A full-length debut, The Second Annual Report of Throbbing Gristle, followed in 1977, in a pressing of only 500 copies; bowing to fan demand, the record was later reissued -- cut from a master tape played backward. The 1977 underground hit "United" marked a tiny step toward accessibility, thanks to the inclusion of a discernible rhythm. Typically, when the track reappeared on 1978's D.O.A: The Third and Final Report, it was sped up to last all of 17 seconds; no less provocative was "Hamburger Lady" (inspired by the story of a burn-unit victim) or "Death Threats" (a compilation of murderous messages left on the group's answering machine).
20 Jazz Funk Greats, a harsh electro-pop outing, followed a year later, and after 1980's live-in-the-studio Heathen Earth, Throbbing Gristle called it quits. P-Orridge and Christopherson soon formed Psychic TV (though Christopherson split again to form Coil), while the remaining duo continued on as Chris & Cosey. As Throbbing Gristle's influence swelled, a seemingly endless series of posthumous releases followed, most of them taken from live dates; among the more notable were 1981's 24 Hours of Throbbing Gristle, 1983's Once Upon a Time (Live at the Lyceum), 1998's Dimensia in Excelsis, 2001's The First Annual Report of Throbbing Gristle, and 2004's Mutant TG and TG+. Throbbing Gristle reunited during the early 2000s for performances, and released Part Two: Endless Not, their first album in 25 years, in 2007. ~ Jason Ankeny