Terry Edwards And The Scapegoats
Living With Eating Disorders
Buffalo Bar, London
Wednesday April 14 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

There’s a man with a mullet in the queue ahead of me. He’s holding everyone up as we try to get in, because he wants the bemused bloke on the ticket desk to give him a receipt for his five quid entrance fee. ‘You know, for, er, business,’ he says, cryptically. But we know what he’s doing here. It seems the music industry is casting an eye over tonight’s proceedings. Our mate with the mullet is some sort of A&R man, although to look at him you’d hardly think he’d be interested in the bizarre noises kicked up by the bands at this gig. He looks more like he’s on a mission to discover the new Shania Twain.

If so, I fear his search will be fruitless. At any rate, Living With Eating Disorders certainly aren’t in the business of making coffee-table anthems for the SUV generation. They plough a different furrow. Here, in the compact confines of the Buffalo bar - an encouragingly well-laid-out venue, although the stage lighting is, as usual, mostly an unhelpful red - the band have an opportunity to push their unsettling noise right into the faces of the audience. But that’s not to say that Living With Eating Disorders are in the business of crude confrontation - far from it. Andrea, the vocalist, seems to go to another place as she sings. As the boys in the band crank up their avant-rock racket, she seems to tense up, her eyes take on a faraway look, and she stares right through the crowd as if she’s seeing into another world. It’s quite disconcerting to watch all this happen no more than a couple of feet away from my face, as I stand at the front of the crowd. None of this means the band are anything less than completely in control, however. The music is a loose-limbed dancing skeleton, all guitar-shards and jazzy beats. I swear the drummer seems to *stir* the drums, rather than do anything as mundane as hit them. ‘Demon In The Wheels’ is a snarling, shuddering highlight. At the end of the set Andrea wanders off, still in her other world, as the audience exchanges anxious glances, unsure if they’ve just seen a performance...or a glimpse of something deeper.

Leisur::Hive array themselves on stage, suited and booted and looking like they mean business. Their tense, angular, noise works well in this  venue, the guitar sound cannoning off the red walls as the band revolves and churns. But behind all the guitar-grind, Leisur::Hive’s sound is built upon and prodded along by a battery of drumbeats so assertive and powerful that it’s astonishing to glance over at the drummer and find that he’s just casually sitting there, wielding his drumsticks with such an effortless swing that it’s hard to believe he’s creating such a big bad yammer.  Meanwhile, at the mic, Dan gives vent to his agonised caterwaul. All the essential elements are present and correct, but this is, perhaps, a somewhat ragged set compared to other Leisur::Hive gigs I’ve seen. Not that the band have ever been in the business of creating blandly smooth performances, you understand; but nevertheless there’s a slight undertow of things going not quite right tonight. My suspicions are confirmed when Maria, scrabbling around on the stage as she switches from guitar to violin, whispers to me ‘This is the worst we’ve played in months!’ But even in not-quite-right mode, Leisur::Hive make an exhilarating, splintered sound, the sonic equivalent of cracks spreading their way through glass.  Dan abandons his usual persona of an apprehensive research chemist as the set draws to a close, and vents his frustrations in a burst of rock ‘n’ roll madness that’s really quite alarming, coming as it does from a performer who never usually allows his inner feelings to show in anything but the music. He lurches around on stage, kicking at his effects pedals and trying to pull Maria over as she gamely keeps playing. Everything shudders to a halt, and after a pure moment of ‘What the fuck?’ the audience realises that  it’s all over, and a gust of warm applause blows the band off stage. A passing Andi Sex Gang delivers his verdict: ‘They’re very art-house!’ From Andi, consummate art-rocker that he is, that is high praise indeed.

Terry Edwards is in the slightly odd position of being, in a sense, the least well-known artist on tonight’s bill - and yet I’m sure he appears many times over in the record collections of most people here, although I dare say some might not know it. 80s indie kids might recall him as a member of The Higsons, but more recently he’s lent his multi-instrumental and arranging talents to such luminaries as Nick Cave, The Creatures, Lydia Lunch, The Jesus And Mary Chain...and countless others. His own recordings have seen him mix original songs with a bewildering variety of other peoples’ material - even releasing tribute EPs to artists as diverse as Miles Davis and The Cure. Occasionally, Terry Edwards plays solo sets with just a tape recorder and a hold-all of instruments for company, but here, with a drummer and bassist in tow, he appears before us as The Scapegoats.  The three of them pile in to a gloriously heterogeneous set which takes in jazz, blues, punk - sometimes all within the space of one song. Terry Edwards himself, dapper and urbane in a suit, rings the instrumental changes, treating us to cornet, saxophone and guitar on a selection of songs as varied as The Jesus And Mary Chain’s ‘Never Understand’ to Thelonius Monk’s ‘Harlem Nocturne’. Sometimes the music is cool, hep-cat jazz, sometimes it’s experimental, splattered with discords and weird harmonics, and then at other times it’s as if we’ve stumbled into a sixties blues club as the band fry up a good old rockin’ rhythm. The pay-off is a full-throttle punk number, all sandpaper guitars and a righteous shout of a vocal - and a title that gets a sardonic laugh from the audience when it’s announced: ‘Margaret Thatcher, We Still Hate You’. Excellent stuff, splendidly idiosyncratic and utterly unconcerned with musical boundaries, and that’s just the way music should be. As I wander out of the venue after the show the thought occurs to me that Terry Edwards is probably the only artist on the planet to be equally influenced by Charlie Parker and Charlie Harper. Long may he continue on his musical journey to everywhere.

see all the photos from this concert here

Terry Edwards:  http://www.terryedwards.co.uk

Leisur::Hive:  http://www.leisur-hive.co.uk

Living With Eating Disorders: http://www.livingwitheatingdisorders.co.uk

Up All Night, promoters of the gig: http://www.upallnightmusic.com

The Buffalo Bar:  http://www.buffalobar.co.uk

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:  http://www.nemesis.to

Skinny Puppy
Portion Control
The Forum, London
Monday July 19 2004
~review by Uncle Nemesis
(photos of the Amsterdam show kindly lent to us by Troy)

There’s something rather odd about going to see Skinny Puppy at one of London’s major theatre venues. Last time I saw this band, it was the best part of 20 years ago, and they were playing the back room of a London pub.

Yes, really. This would’ve been around 1985, I suppose. I was a youthful weirdo, and my principal recreation was to hang around many of London’s alternative gigs, soaking up beer and music in roughly equal quantities.  Not much has changed in that respect, of course. One of my regular-ish haunts was a west London boozer called the Greyhound, down Fulham Palace Road - a traditionally grubby ‘rock pub’ with bizarre country-cottage style decor in the band room out the back. The bar, as I recall, had a thatched roof over it, a piece of kitsch that must have substantially increased the fire risk. Just about every punk and post-punk band passed through the Greyhound in their early stages. Some went on to fame, greatness, and bigger gigs at the Hammersmith Palais, just up the road. Others sank without trace. But you could usually be certain of catching something good at the Greyhound most weeks.

On this particular week in the 80s, a whacko bunch of weirdos from Canada hauled in, and I witnessed one of the most crazily intense gigs I’ve ever seen in my life. The venue was packed, the heat was brutal, the noise was all-enveloping, and, in a haze of smoke and white light, a manic, freaked-out urchin at the front of the stage disembowelled a stuffed dog while hollering a mad rant at the world. It was non-stop stuff, an energy blast like I’ve seldom seen since. The crowd seethed like a live thing; in the heat and the crush people were going down like ninepins. I saw members of the audience carried out feet first and laid in Fulham Palace Road like earthquake victims pulled from the rubble. I had to push my way out into the fresh air myself, before the end of the set, before I keeled over in the heaving sauna of the mosh. I can recall sitting on the doorstep of the pub, dazed and exhilarated, the noise rolling out behind me like a war just over the horizon. It was...quite an experience.

(There was a bizarre postscript to this gig. Apparently, Skinny Puppy’s stuffed dog was a little too realistic for comfort. Someone assumed the band was ill-treating a real animal, and reported them to the RSPCA!)

Now, two decades and a whole career later, Skinny Puppy are back, now very much the elder statesmen of industrial. Established, famous, influential - and very definitely no longer on the pub circuit. Skinny Puppy are taking their show around the world, playing all the big stages from Amsterdam to Zillo - and it really is a *show*, a theatrical production that has the flavour of a touring revue about it rather than the madcap spontaneity of a gig. I’m curious to discover if any of Skinny Puppy’s original fire and brimstone has survived twenty years of scrabbling up the music biz ladder.  I’m not expecting an enlarged version of that Fulham Greyhound gig, but a flash or two of the old mad fire would be good. I doubt very much whether chaos and intensity still rule Skinny Puppy’s world, as they once did - but I hope the band are still willing to invite those old muckers to their twenty-first century party.

First impressions are not, alas, encouraging. The Forum is one of only a few venues in London still to impose a strict ‘no cameras’ rule on its patrons. These days, when you can record a passable video with nothing more elaborate than a mobile phone, such rules are unenforceable and irrelevant, and, by and large, have gone by the board. But here, everyone gets a pat-down at the door, and woe betide you if you’re discovered with illicit image-gathering equipment about your person. That is why you see no photos of the London show here - and why, once inside the venue, the prevailing atmosphere seems strangely subdued, the audience self-consciously on its best behaviour under the death-ray glares of more security men than I’ve seen at any gig for a long while. Skinny Puppy, it seems, are no longer at home to Captain Chaos. These days, they’re best friends with Colonel Control.

But first, we have a support band. I remember Portion Control on the John Peel show back in the 80s - pioneering industrial-culture noiseniks, and, apparently, a big influence on Skinny Puppy in the early days. Now, like just about every other band of the 80s, it appears that they’re making a comeback. They provide a fairly standard laptops ‘n’ chanting nu-industrial show, all more or less par for the course. Two blokes squint at their laptop screens and press buttons; one bloke stomps around the stage and crossly shouts out the lyrics. They do it all with perfect competence, but there are many, many bands out there doing this stuff these days, and Portion Control’s early-scene status doesn’t automatically mean they’re anything radical or special now. When all’s said and done, the likes of Freudstein are the frontrunners in this musical area nowadays, while Portion Control come across as middle-of-the-field journeymen who might have the kudos of an old-skool name, but not necessarily the ideas to make a real impression in the here and now. Marks out of ten? I’ll shrug and give ‘em five.

Headline time. And there they are, a bunch of anonymous shapes in the darkness, dwarfed by a back-projection screen hurling out images of the horsemen of the apocalypse (George Bush prominent among them). One of the anonymous shapes is allegedly cEvin Key, while up front, wearing a bizarre outfit that suggests Mortiis has been employed as Skinny Puppy’s wardrobe master, please welcome Nivek Ogre, gesticulating dramatically at the mic as if he’s got angst in his pants. The music hammers and roars, and the scale of the show is impressive. The political stance of the band sharpens up the experience, especially when you consider that so many bands in the industrial zone these days go no further than ‘Aw, man, my head’s fucked up’ personal ranting. Ah, yes, Skinny Puppy are back, and on fire.

Or are they?

I stand there, watching the spectacle, waiting for it all to really kick off, waiting for that spark of crazy chaos to ignite, waiting for the Lord of Misrule to come down and boogie...but it doesn’t quite happen. The band remain half-hidden in the darkness throughout the show: they could be (and probably are) a bunch of anonymous session musicians, the way they’re kept out of the limelight. I’m not entirely convinced that this is any kind of ‘real’ Skinny Puppy line-up, or whether it’s just a pick-up band thrown together for the tour. The music itself is a kind of anonymous industrial blare, all bump ‘n’ grind and growled-out vocals - effective in itself, but hardly a distinct or unique sound these days. Once, nobody did it like Skinny Puppy. Now, they seem to be sliding into generic-industrial territory, making a could-be-anyone noise that doesn’t have much individuality about it. Ogre prowls and poses and flaps about in his Mortiis-costume, but with the rest of the band banished to the sidelines he’s the only visual focus, trying to carry the show by himself - and, in truth, after about twenty minutes of his nutter-on-the-bus-in-fancy-dress act, it all becomes a bit dull. As the set unfolds, he rips bits of his costume apart and splatters fake blood around, while the fans at the front go wild with glee. But I can’t see what’s so special about this schtick. I mean, if I wanted to see some gimp in a wacky ‘horror’ costume larking about with imitation bodily fluids, I’d go and see Cradle Of Filth, for heaven’s sake.

The band can’t hold my attention. I go wandering around the venue, and end up doing something I rarely do at gigs: chatting to people, striking up conversations with friends and acquaintances I meet up by the bars, treating the gig as a social occasion. Reactions to the show do seem to be heavily polarised - the fans at the front continue to mosh frenziedly, seemingly convinced that the Industrial Messiah has returned to lead them out of darkness. But, further back, the crowd is subdued, unconvinced, watching the stage with cynical detatchment, as if waiting for something *really* special to happen. I’m with the cynical detatchment crowd. This is...well, just a bit disappointing. When all’s said and done, I can see bands making this kind of music any night of the week in London, albeit with somewhat less of a big-budget production. Skinny Puppy still have an edge in that their songwriting has unashamed political content, the like of which other bands prefer to avoid, but this is ultimately a mainstream-friendly rock show, precision-tooled to impress the nu-industrial generation who think it all started the day NIN got their first video played on MTV. It’s slick, seamless, professional, and, in the end, rather empty.

In a poignant re-run of my first Skinny Puppy gig at the Fulham Greyhound all those years ago, I leave before the end. Back then, I stumbled out, gasping, overwhelmed by the experience and desperate for fresh air.  Tonight, I stroll out of the venue, calmly wander off down the street, and stop in a nearby shop for a sandwich - an appropriately prosaic end to an evening that didn’t leave me shaken or stirred. That’s Skinny Puppy, 2004 style. Slick theatre. But no chaos, and no soul.

Oh, and the Fulham Greyhound? It's a pizza restaurant now.

Skinny Puppy: [Allegedly the band's official site, but in reality nothing more than a rather half-arsed links page] http://www.skinnypuppy.com

Skinny puppy photos from the Amsterdam gig [Same show as London]:

Portion Control: http://www.portion-control.net

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:  http://www.nemesis.to

Living With Eating Disorders
Limehouse Town Hall, London
Saturday February 28 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

The East End of London is a strange place these days. Glittering skyscrapers stand right next to the remains of 19th century industry; designer apartments for the cool and well-heeled turn their noses up at ramshackle terraces. Stainless steel and soot-blackened brickwork side by side, murky tidal creeks glimpsed through noisesome alleys and bijou yuppie sun-decks alike. And through it all, the Bladerunner rollercoaster that is the Docklands Light Railway threads its computer-controlled way. Here’s Limehouse station, perched atop a Victorian railway arch, the river Thames on one side, the river of constant traffic that is Commercial Road on the other. Turn right, walk along until you see the statue of Clement Attlee (endearingly wearing real wire-framed spectacles), and that elegant building nearby, still bursting with municipal pride even though local government has moved elsewhere these days, is Limehouse Town Hall.

It’s an odd setting for a gig, but Living With Eating Disorders are playing here tonight, as part of a Self Injury Awareness Movement charity event.  There’s no stage, just an expanse of floor around which a crowd gathers, curious but cautious, as showtime approaches. It’s not Living With Eating Disorders’ usual audience, that’s for sure. Most people here are wearing high-street leisurewear, trackies and hoodies and big-brand sports gear.

There’s a distinctly odd style collision between the audience and the band: the gentlemen musicians are all dressed down in severe monochrome tones, while Andrea, the vocalist, is in her Hollywood Babylon wedding dress.  ‘Everyone here is so...normal,’ she mutters apprehensively, looking around at the assembled throng. ‘They’re so normal they’re...weird!’

The DJs at the side of the room, who’ve been playing vintage soul and rare groove selections all night, bring their set to a close. And there, incidentally, we have another bizarre style-crash, since, at the risk of doing anyone a disservice, I imagine few of the crowd are aware of anything much beyond this weeks’ charts. At any rate, nobody’s been dancing. Now it’s time for the band to take the floor and do their thing. ‘This is the strangest place I’ve ever played,’ says Andrea, just before she goes on-floor. ‘I’ll never complain about Camden again!’

The crowd forms a respectful semi-circle around the band - without the physical presence of a stage-edge, nobody’s quite sure how close they’re allowed to get. In any case, Living With Eating Disorders aren’t really the kind of band that attracts the kind of glad-handing devotion of gushing fans. They’re a bit more of a challenge, and, I assume, deliberately so.  Their music isn’t instant-gratification stuff; the band doesn’t deal in toe-tapping instant hits. You’ve got to work to get into this stuff, and I can vouch for that myself. When I first saw Living With Eating Disorders, supporting Skeletal Family a while back, I wasn’t quite sure whether I liked them or not. I couldn’t decide whether their music got under my skin or just got on my nerves. But the band sent me their demo CDs, and I sat there and listened to them...and I’m sure a little cartoon light-bulb suddenly flickered on above my head. All of a sudden, the band’s angular, fractured racket made sense.

I’m not sure how much sense the band’s angular, fractured racket is making to tonight’s audience, but encouragingly they’re treated well, and every song is greeted with appreciative applause. The boys in the band keep their presence minimal: dressed in black, against the black backdrop, they’re hardly visible. Out front, Andrea carries the show with a slightly restrained, yet still attention-grabbing performance. I doubt if there’s any way Living With Eating Disorders’ songs could be simply treated to a casual run-through: this music, these lyrics, demand as much from the band as they do from the audience. ‘Horsemilk’ is the crackle and crunch of splintered glass under your bare feet, ‘I Talk to God’ is as unsettling as ever, even in these prosaic surroundings, and ‘Demon In The Wheels’ is careering, broken machinery. The music pounds along, driven by minimalist drumming and implacable keyboards, more often than not filling the gap where most bands would have a bass guitar. The guitar itself sometimes drops out altogether, then elbows its way in again, all awkward edges and jabbing fingers. It’s heady stuff if you allow it into your head, and although the setting of tonight’s gig isn’t exactly sympathetic, the strength of the songs still comes through.

It’s a tribute to the band that they volunteered their services for this gig - a fine case of living up to your convictions, regardless if there’s any career-benefit to be had or not. I don’t know if any of the trackies ‘n’ hoodies kids will become converts to the Living With Eating Disorders cause, but even if they never experience anything so unusual again, it feels perversely good that they’ve had at least one glimpse of the world beyond River Island and JD Sports.

see all the photos from this concert here

Living With Eating Disorders:  http://www.livingwitheatingdisorders.co.uk

The Self-Injury Awareness Movement: http://www.si-am.info

Limehouse Town Hall:  http://twenteenthcentury.com/lth

River Island: http://www.riverisland.com

JD Sports:  http://www.jdsports.co.uk

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:  http://www.nemesis.to

Dick Dale
Muck and the Mires
Dana Stewart & The Old Howards
@ The Middle East downstairs
Cambridge, MA
May 29th, 2004
~review by Basim
(photos from each band's website - see links at the end of this article)

This evening, Dick’s guitar smashed into the audience like an eleven foot wave breaking over the sea bed. That jangly surf rock sound is as carnal as an aggitant can be; we all yelped and hollared our voice boxes shot trying to match its intensity. You know that reverb heavy, fist pouding rockabilly guitar sound? Dick invented it. Reverb, and LOUD rock owes it’s health to Dick’s Surf Rock daycare center. 9 out of 10 mansonites asked, “Is this some kind of evil surf music?!?” when I tried educating them with Dark Entries. And besides laying the bedrock of rebellion, Dick’s still reinventing the way we look at writing and producing sounds. Portions of the set were spent with Dale using drum sticks to pound power chords out on his bassist’s strings. There was also drum solo which featured some nice call and response between Dick Dale clicking his tongue and the skin basher’s kick.

I’m noticing more and more that when artists persevere in one band and keep writing quality music, their fanbase expands indefinetly. The Cramps are a good example, but Dick Dale is an even worthier contender to smash the record industry’s view on “cornering demographics”. There’s a point where music can’t be described by name dropping subcultures consisting of upper to middleclass white kids trying desperately to be unique and “down”. There’s a point where you go home and put all the music you own into two piles: “Good” and “Bad”. Dick Dale is good, and worthwhile people realize this. This isn’t a matter of having different tastes, this is a matter of being mature enough to see beyond a horizon set by fashion driven subcultures. If you can’t go to a Dale show and feel shaken up you have some very rudimentary growing up to do. The Rock is ineffable.

It has been proven by the diversity of the crowd: well-over middle-agers bouncing along next to youthful psychobillies. I’ve never seen so many “Demented are Go” patches and pompadours in my life. I wish I had used my pomade.

The two openners were alot of fun too. Muck and the Mires are one of those trendy retro bands, who I probably wouldn’t be caught dead listening to. At a rock concert their music is another story. There’s some serious thematic punch to four guys dressed in the same red and black getup with the same bowl haircut, playing agreeable yet fun pop rock. It’s three minute long bursts of nostalgia that I think alot of us could use in our life. For fans of the 60’s garage sound; the soundtrack to American Graffiti, Buddy Holly or Moulty and the Barbarians.

Wanna know who really were breath taking?
Dana Stewart & the Old Howards.

This was a loud rockabilly racket done well. Dana Stewart’s punchy drumming and lead vocals made us all shout along. Guitarist Jeff Herring’s approach to soloing really harkened to the classic solos of old, the kind that make you wince once they’ve reached their peak. It was a cross between the variety of Wayne Hancock and energy of Chuck Berry.

This is a band that needs to be seen live, they’ll make you pull your hair out and blow your lungs. Watch your livers ;)

Dick Dale

Muck and the Mires

Dana Stewart & the Old Howards

Throbbing Gristle
Astoria, London
Sunday May 16 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

When is a gig not a gig? When it’s a ‘recording session’. Throbbing Gristle are adamant that this event isn’t anything so ordinary as a regular live show. The band, who have temporarily regrouped 23 years after splitting up, are in the process of making a DVD, and have graciously permitted an audience to witness the recording process. At least, that’s the official line. Personally, I suspect that after 23 years away from the live circuit, Throbbing Gristle aren’t entirely sure whether they can cut it as a live act. Billing this show as a ‘recording session’ is a way of damping down the expectations of the audience, while also giving the band a get-out if it all goes horribly wrong. After all, nobody can complain about the gig being crap if it was never a gig in the first place!

But wait. Perhaps we should sketch in the background here. Why is the return of a bunch of weirdo noisemakers after 23 years a noteworthy event?  Who, indeed, are Throbbing Gristle anyway, and why should anyone be interested? After all, do *you* have any Throbbing Gristle music in your collection? I’m willing to bet that you don’t. And yet, I’d also bet that you own much music that simply wouldn’t exist if it had not been for Throbbing Gristle opening the essential doors back in the late 1970s.

Throbbing Gristle, avowed non-musicians all, came into music via the mid-seventies left-field performance art scene, in which founder members Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti had gained something of a reputation as the confrontational, sexually explicit, and often plain bizarre art troupe Coum Transmissions. Throbbing Gristle began, essentially, as a continuation of this project: a band by default rather than by design, an art attack which just happened to use sound as its primary weapon. Fortunately, perhaps, TG’s emergence coincided with the rise of punk. Their confrontational stance, deliberate use of shock tactics, cacophonous, lo-fi, home-made recordings and haphazardly antagonistic live performances fortuitously fitted in with the spirit of the times, although musically TG were a world away from the essentially conventional four-square rock ‘n’ roll which was then (and remains now) the usual punk soundtrack. Their inspiration came from the background noises of urban living; machinery, electricity, the crackles and rattles that are a constant soundtrack to modern life. They coined a slogan to describe their racket: ‘Industrial music for industrial people’. Before long, other bands emerged who claimed to work in similar territory. Throbbing Gristle themselves released the music of several kindred spirits on their own label, Industrial Records.

All this, of course, is where the musical genre we know and (sometimes) love called industrial sprang from. Not that Throbbing Gristle themselves ever intended to start up a whole new genre, and I’m sure the lightweight, bouncy, synthpop which most people today would characterise as ‘industrial’ must leave the pioneers themselves distinctly unimpressed. It’s interesting to note that the audience for today’s event is impressively varied.  Everyone from grizzled veterans of the seventies art scene to full-on twenty-first century fetishists have turned out to witness this unexpected comeback of the people who started it all. But it’s also interesting to note who *isn’t* here. The cybergoth contingent - the goggles ‘n’ glowsticks brigade - is conspicuous by its absence. Why is this? Could it be that today’s synthpop kids just don’t know where their scene originated?  Is their involvement in their chosen subculture so shallow that it simply wouldn’t occur to them to return to the source? I don’t know, and, in truth, I don’t really care. But I’ll tell you this: if you think the inspiration-free recycling of factory-preset sounds, the simplistic beats, and overcooked cod-emotion of VNV Nation are as good as it gets, you just ain’t gonna get Throbbing Gristle.

The Astoria lighting rig blazes white, full on, permanently on. On stage, tables laden with equipment - and, incongruous amongst the technology, a few real musical instruments. It’s stark, uncompromising, and, under the glare of the lights, punishingly hot. But this isn’t a *gig*, remember?  It’s just a recording session. Showbiz values do not apply. But nothing can stop the audience cheering fit to raise the roof when the band strolls on.  The four members of Throbbing Gristle seem cautious, diffident, unsure of how this will go. Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson is portly and avuncular, poking fun at his own legend in an ancient grey T-shirt emblazoned ‘It’s not easy bein’ sleazy’. Cosey is reserved and respectable, sitting at her table of gear with a guitar across her lap like a lab technician waiting for the experiment to begin, while Chris Carter, as ever the self-effacing boffin, seems utterly unaffected by the passing years. The passing years, however, *have* wrought a few changes to the person of Throbbing Gristle’s frontman, Genesis P-Orridge. Or rather, he’s wrought those changes to himself. He’s in the process of a trans-gender art-experiment which apparently involves both he and his wife filling themselves up with hormones in a bid to meet each other in the middle of the gender divide.  This may be a genuine artistic statement on the nature of identity, or it may be just good old Genesis playing a typically surreal practical joke - although, if so, I can think of less elaborate ways to raise a laugh. At any rate, he walks on stage in a fetching red ensemble, looking like an extra from Coronation Street after a particularly intense Ann Summers party. ‘Show us your tits!’ cries a girl in the crowd. ‘Didn’t I tell you that would happen?’ says Genesis to Sleazy, with good-humoured resignation.  He seems to have adopted a quaintly English-camp persona to go with his customised body. In tones which recall the late, great Hattie Jaques in one of her Carry On roles he lectures us on the ‘recording session’ nature of the show: ‘You are here as our props. Please understand if we ignore you’.  And then it’s time to make some noise.

A long, slow, rumble unfolds, seemingly coming from somewhere beneath our feet. Throbbing Gristle’s interest in sub-bass frequencies - low-frequency sounds that bypass your ears and head straight for your lower intestine - is obviously alive and well. The band keep their heads down, letting the sounds do the work. Genesis himself hangs back, behind a microphone at the rear of the stage, scraping away at a bass guitar with a bottle. The sound fills the venue - it’s not particularly loud, but it’s astonishingly clear, and there’s a curious mass to it, as if it’s billowing out of the PA like gas. Electronic squelches and glitches come and go, analogue noise-sweeps rush by like passing cars. And then, all of a sudden, they’re doing ‘Persuasion’ - ‘I’ve got a little biscuit tin/To keep your panties in’ - ah, they don’t write ‘em like that any more. There’s an almost palpable gasp from the crowd, most of whom, it seems, were expecting a typically ‘difficult’ set of challenging new material. If Throbbing Gristle have mellowed enough to play some of their greatest hits - well, what else might we expect? The audience is rapt, sucked in - but at the same time anticipating more. So far, everyone on stage has kept back, kept their heads down, but there’s a vast expanse of stage at the front where nobody has yet set foot. This may not be a conventional gig, but surely we can expect a little in the way of a show. Surely Genesis must, sooner or later, step forward?

And he does. While the other three concentrate on the music, Mr/Mrs/Ms P-Orridge succumbs to his showbiz instincts, steps forward, and gives us the full works. He makes an oddly effective frontman, gradually getting into the swing of the performance as the sound boils and seethes. He might not have much to do with the music itself, but he provides that essential X-factor without which Throbbing Gristle might become dangerously close to being just another collection of musos with laptops. Throwing poses like a mad yogi, throwing his head back and yelling into the lighting rig, stalking to and fro like a cat staking out its territory, shamelessly playing up to the adulation of the fans at the front - it’s the Genesis P-orridge floorshow, a crazed cabaret nobody was quite expecting.

Behind him, Sleazy wipes a wireless mouse over his T-shirt, triggering sounds from a virtual theremin - a clever device, but without the visual appeal of an old-style theremin, which would require some really flamboyant moves. At this show, there’s only one person who’s allowed to be flamboyant, and it ain’t Sleazy. Cosey flicks and twangs at the guitar on her lap; she stands up only once, to give us a swift burst of trumpet. And Chris Carter, who I suspect is the driving force behind much of what we’re hearing at this show, simply concentrates on the tangle of wires and black boxes in front of him, and keeps the sounds coming. We do indeed get a selection of greatest hits: ‘Convincing People’, ‘Hamburger Lady’, ‘What A Day’ - and some newies, too: ‘Splitting Sky’ and ‘Almost Like This’. Old songs and new slice through the white light haze as if freshly minted that morning. It all sounds very assured and high-end and - well, dare I say it, accessible, and that’s not a word I’d have previously used to describe Throbbing Gristle. But I imagine the band realise that in 2004 it simply wouldn’t do to rehash their late-seventies lo-fi excursions. No reason for it, either. Originally, Throbbing Gristle built their own instruments (Chris Carter’s home-made synthesizer, Thee Gristleizer, is regarded as a classic of its era) whereas today the mighty forces of consumer electronics provide all the hardware you could possibly need. It’s what happens after you’ve bought the stuff that’s important. Now, it’s the *ideas* that are paramount, and it’s in this area that Throbbing Gristle are as far ahead of the field as ever.

Genesis returns to his bottle-bass and gives us more grinding and churning - he doesn’t really *play* in any generally accepted musical sense, but then Throbbing Gristle’s relationship with music was always somewhat tangental. He even grabs a violin, and, with broken strings waving from his bow like seaweed in a turning tide, adds layers of squawks and shrieks to the mix. The grand finale of the show - and, yes, for all the kerfuffle about a ‘recording session’ this is now most definitely a *show* - is a towering, shuddering, mad-bastard mutant-funk rendition of ‘Discipline’, transformed in this incarnation into a gleaming, chrome-plated armoured personnel carrier of a tune. It rumbles and vibrates, the entire venue becoming as one with the bassline. It occurs to me that this is far more of a groovy, gutsy dancefloor experience than the hysterical doof-and-chant workouts of modern-day EBM could ever be, and in Genesis P-Orridge, Throbbing Gristle have a leader (if only inasmuch as he’s the one centre stage) with massively more natural presence and charisma than any of those frantic emotions-on-parade futurepop frontmen.

What does it say about our current ‘industrial’ scene if it can be so comprehensively blown away by a collection of fiftysomethings who haven’t even set foot on stage together for over two decades? Throbbing Gristle came, they played, they conquered, and in doing so they comprehensively wiped the floor with twenty-odd years’ worth of flimsy pretenders. Mad old bastards they may be, but they’re still the masters.

see all the photos from this concert here

Throbbing Gristle official website: http://www.throbbing-gristle.com

Throbbing Gristle's page within the Mute site: http://www.mute.com/tg

More Throbbing Gristle: http://brainwashed.com/tg

Genesis P-Orridge's website:  http://www.genesisp-orridge.com

Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti's website: http://chrisandcosey.com

Cosey Fanni Tutti's solo art projects etc: http://coseyfannitutti.com

Peter Christopherson's current incarnation as part of Coil is documented here: http://brainwashed.com/coil

Throbbing Gristle's next (and, we are told, last) performance: http://www.atpfestival.com

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to

Sleeping Children
The Screaming Banshee Aircrew
The Verge, London
Wednesday May 26 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

Ah, Wednesday - the most un-rock ‘n’ roll day of the week. But this particular Wednesday has been wrenched in the direction of rockin’ craziness, because Antiworld are in town, taking a swing through London before heading out to an appearance at the Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig.  Joining them, two support acts from France and the UK. All three bands are making their debut in London.

It’s early in the evening, and The Verge is slow to fill. Punters trickle in while behind the decks, Cavey Nick of the Dead And Buried club keeps the noises rolling. Glancing around with a jaundiced eye (which I keep in my pocket for just these occasions) I note that the venue’s lighting rig now sports a handsome total of three lights - hey, don’t knock it, that’s a 50% improvement on state of the rig last time I was here. Unfortunately, as if to make up for this generous technical largesse, it sounds like 50% of the venue’s sound system has been disconnected. At any rate, Cavey Nick’s DJ selections sound thin and mid-rangey as they blare through the PA. Hmmm.  That doesn’t exactly bode well for the quality of live sound we’ll get tonight, but let’s bring on the first of tonight’s bands and see how we make out.

And our first band is...The Screaming Banshee Aircrew, stars of the ‘oop north’ scene. Indeed, I believe this is as far south as the band have ever ventured, and they’ve still only reached Kentish Town. I dare say the ‘Crew are hoping that their first London show will be a wild, hedonistic triumph right from the word go. Well, it doesn’t quite work out like that, unfortunately, although not for any want of effort on the part of the band.  They’re stymied by sound problems: the monitor mix, it seems, is barely there, while out front their backing track is so low it’s hardly audible to anyone. So we get a rather distracted performance, frontman Mister Ed making all his trademark moves while wearing a frustrated frown, while the rest of the band try their best to put on a good show even though the overall sound is all guitar and vocal and not much else. Half way through the set the guitarist takes it upon himself to tweak the on-stage equipment, and all of a sudden the backing track booms forth, loud and...well, I wouldn’t exactly say ‘clear’; this is The Verge’s PA we’re talking about here, after all. But there’s a distinct improvement in the quality of the sound which makes me wonder why the band didn’t ensure the mystery tweak was done before the start of their set. Come now, chaps, that’s what soundchecks are for! Thus encouraged, the Aircrew hit their stride and the performance gets a whole lot more lively; much more like the rollicking, confident, band I saw in Leeds a while back. A victory, then, snatched from the very jaws of a fuck-up.

I know nothing about Sleeping Children beyond the fact that they’re French.  And yet, paradoxically enough, they turn out to be a very British goth band, in a way. There are three humans and a drum machine on stage, kicking up a very 90s-style gothic rock racket, not a million miles away from the kind of stuff that soundtracked the UK scene about ten years ago. The vocalist sings in a bizarre style of his own which seems to turn the lyrics of every song into an all-purpose ‘Ah-wow-ah-wow-ah-wow’ sound. I was curious to find out whether he’d deliver his lyrics in English or French, but I fear I cannot tell you. His heavily stylised vocal technique swamps the words to such an extent that he might as well be singing in Klingon for all the sense it makes to me. Meanwhile, to his left, a guitarist who looks uncannily like Matt North from All Living Fear (and even has Matt’s habit of singing along to himself while doing a series step-forward-step-back moves as he plays) churns out the riffs, while on the opposite side a bassist who seems to have dressed up as Scary Lady Sarah for the gig handles the bottom end. It’s all a bit surreal: a gothic rock episode of Stars In Their Eyes.

The audience receives Sleeping Children politely, without ever going quite as far as showing any particular enthusiasm - it’s as if everyone’s waiting for the band to do something really special, to pull that killer song out of the hat. Alas, it never quite happens. The band have that good ol’ gothic sound down to a fine art, but I don’t hear any songs which particularly stick in my brain. There’s a distinct lack of hooks and choruses and memorable melody lines. The baffling, vowel-heavy vocals don’t exactly help, of course. In truth, Sleeping Children don’t really provide much to latch on to. They’re not *bad*, you understand - but they never quite rise above the ‘not bad’ level, and that just isn’t enough.

The set is short. Abruptly, the band stop, and are gone. There’s a moment of bemused silence. Nobody’s quite sure if the sudden halt is caused by a technical problem, or if it really is the end. Nope, they’ve finished. A smattering of applause breaks out - but only a smattering; a fair reaction to a competent but not particularly inspiring set. I suppose the lesson here is that just because a band hails from overseas, and thus has a certain exotic cachet about them, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be anything special on the night. We have bands in the UK which can do everything Sleeping Children do, and do it better to boot. After all, if you’re after a no-nonsense gothic rock band with a guitarist who looks like Matt North from All Living Fear - why not book All Living Fear?

The band everyone really wants to see tonight, of course, is Antiworld, who, in tonight’s piece of shameless hype (every gig must have one) are billed as ‘Wave Gotik Treffen headliners’. Now, if I were a pedant, I could point out at this juncture that the Wave Gotik Treffen doesn’t actually have a ‘headliner’ in any conventional sense, and even if it did, Antiworld, whose slot at the festival is actually one down from the top at just one of more than eight different venues, wouldn’t be it. However, I wouldn’t dream of being so picky, so I shall say no such thing. Tonight, at any rate, their top spot is not in doubt. The band wander casually on stage, picking up their instruments, tweaking this, adjusting that. They’re an exotic looking bunch: part undertakers, part gangsters. It’s as if we’re watching ‘The Sopranos - The Spooky Years’. The mysterious DJ Psyche introduces the band, and they dive straight in to their amiable, bouncy, pop-punk set. And yes, Antiworld *are* pop-punk. This band isn’t in the business of tackling the big issues, or even pushing any particular musical boundaries. They’re all about having fun to a soundtrack of pell-mell 80s-style punky riffs. They’re a permanent Hallowe’en party, and if you take them on that level, they’re jolly good fun. The visual focal point, of course, is Grandma Fiendish, on vocals - a spooky storyteller, looming out at the audience with tales from the crypt, cautionary fables of all the bad things that’ll happen to us if we’re not good children. She throws out fizzy sweets and novelties into the crowd, and if Antiworld’s music, if truth be told, doesn’t have much more substance to it than those one-crunch-and-they’re-gone candies, nobody’s complaining tonight. This band is unashamed spooky-trashy fun; they don’t pretend to be anything else - and they get exactly the right kind of good-humoured reaction from the crowd. Antiworld might not take you on any kind of astonishing musical journey, but on a Wednesday night in Kentish Town they’re probably the most fun you can have with your clothes on.

see all the photos from this concert here

Antiworld:  http://www.anotherstateofmind.net/antiworld%20home.htm

Sleeping Children:  http://www.sleepingchildren.com

The Screaming Banshee Aircrew:  http://www.bansheeaircrew.co.uk

DJ Psyche, promoter of the gig:  http://www.viciouslondon.com/psyche

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:  http://www.nemesis.to