Thursday, December 11, 2008

hot on the heels of love

Still feeling the contact high from Drew Daniels' excellent book on 20 Jazz Funk Greats, I almost didn't want to listen to the album again, afraid that analysis would not live up to the thing or vice versa but everything lines up quite neatly. Or as they say in the title track, niiiccccce.

I love these 33 1/3 books. They are perfect sized for the subjects at hand. Virtually readable in the time it takes to listen to the album being discussed. I was thrilled to find that the library here at school has most of them neatly set aside in the Music section, a cordoned off sanctuary of M's and ML's amidst the clutter of whatever all that is in a university library. I am putting together a proposal for one of these sweet little books myself - on whom I cannot say, in fear of The Jinx - and having a clutch of them to bounce off is indispensable. Next up is the one about U2's Achtung Baby, an album I don't actually care for, or don't think I care for; maybe 150 pages of scholarly analysis by a fan will turn me around.

But Throbbing Gristle - My Latin teacher Jaan lent me a tape of this record and D.O.A. as well as the Industrial Culture Handbook, and kicked off a long-lasting friendship. She had moved to NYC in the late 70's, early 80's on in the footsteps of her brother who went on to become The Lady Bunny. She worked at AvantGarde magazine under Ralph Ginzburg, had a young Charles RuPaul for a roommate, met Andy Warhol at a really cool party, consorted with performance artists. I don't remember if she ever met William Burroughs, but she did meet Patti Smith. She saw Einstürzende Neubauten take a jackhammer to the concrete floor of a nightclub, and said the bass signal used by Psychic TV (the successors of Throbbing Gristle) when she saw them was so intense one of her friends shit her pants.

She also loaned me her cassette of The Velvet Underground & Nico, (another excellent 33 1/3 book) which she claimed she found on the sidewalk during her first week in New York, a sign that this was were she was supposed to be. I kept that TG tape for over a year until one day at a dinner party she snatched it back. For me, finding someone who knew these people my impressionable twenty-year-old mind idolized was like finding the Velvet Underground on the sidewalk. I stole a nondescript binder from my student job and started assembling an Industrial Coffee Table book, rife with grisly xeroxes from medical books, pics of Chris Burden crucified on the hood of his VW Beetle, articles about the Coum Transmissions (pre TG performance art troupe) and their notorious tableaux so hostile to the audience that even Chris Burden walked out, and for some reason lost to me, photocopies of my own hand. Such heady times, I'm sure it meant something very industrial.

Now, this album comes off so pleasing to my ears. The sytnth numbers are windswept and sublime, the gnarlier moments about sex murders are funny, like in-jokes. The monotony of their once-oppressive tape loop grind is all too relateable in adulthood. Jann lives in Pennsylvania somewhere with kids, I live here with kid, Genesis P-Orridge sits alone in a Brooklyn apartment somewhere between genders, brokenhearted that the other half he was trying to become died. His story is lovingly told in this Radar piece by Aaron Gell - the finest piece of music-related writing of 2008 in my opinion. And 20 Jazz Funk Greats - not 20, not jazz, not funk and still great after 30 years of existence and 20 years of listening.

This is the world now
Move a fin and the world turns
Sit in a chair and pictures change
Throbbing Gristle, "Six Six Sixties"