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Throbbing Gristle/S.C.U.M. @ Heaven, Charring Cross June 21, (Matinee)

My Fathers’ Day treat was a double header of oppressive volume from old and new school provocateurs. The last time I went to the venue Heaven was around 1983, in the daytime to be in the audience for a New Wave Of British Heavy Metal band video shoot. I had quite forgot that S.C.U.M. were support until a couple of days before and although I was glad to see them on the bill when I bought the ticket I hadn’t got round to hearing anything. So I only had received wisdom (sketchy at best) to go on as to what they might be like.


I can report I thought they were fantastic but I‘m still unsure what they might sound like recorded. They came on and presented an immediate wall of sound, produced by 2 keyboard players (well, keys and noise generator of some sort), bass and drums – along with enigmatic Dorian Gray like vocalist. Strobes were in effect through most tracks – all of which ran together with the exception of a brief “We’re the Society for Cutting Up Men, thanks Throbbing Gristle” before the last track.



Despite being meters away from the punishing display it was possible to discern that there were tunes buried beneath the barrage rather in the manner of The Mary Chain. Although admittedly a rather foppish Mary Chain. Added points in my book for staring completely through the crowd as if we barely existed. This Is There Art, we are the gallery wall.


Throbbing Gristle may have maintained the same line-up since inception in 1976, albeit with a 20 odd year hiatus. That said the line-up have had marked changes in appearance. Cosi Fanni Tutti and Chris Carter look not dissimilar but Peter Christopherson has morphed from the slight figure of the early years into someone resembling an all-in wrestler (perhaps acknowledged by his hooded animal print robe). And Genesis P-Orridge is even more striking than previously due to the self inflicted body image experiments carried out with his (literal) other half Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge to “become” as each other. Without benefit of this knowledge I had presumed a “straight” transsexual operation but nothing so simple. Lady Jaye died suddenly and her Angel presence is clearly with Genesis as he performs – most notably on the somewhat atypical Almost A Kiss, as he slowly spins looking heavenward and kisses her image tattooed on his forearm.


The set starts with Persuasion (I am guessing these titles) a tongue in cheek and yet sexy ode to domination on many levels. I recognize Hamburger Lady but that’s my only reference point in 50 minutes. The tracks (as with my limited exposure to recorded TG) surprise with their pulsing swayability, something of trance along with the Krautrock rhythm that builds through each track rising to a fair volume by the end. Cosi brings a cornet, Genesis a violin, and Peter moulds the sound with a patented device that I believe is his invention. At the side of these creative types Chris is the technician (made implicit by his lab coat) pinning the butterflies to the stage with precision science magic – creating the environment for the others to react and thrive in. As I leave this matinee show (they were playing a second set without support later) there are mumbles of discontent at the length of the set but frankly I’d rather have 50 minutes of inspiration than 2 hours of perspiration. They may be a long way from their Performance Art roots but there is an Art in their performance. A truly remarkable collection of sound sculptors have let us see them create the latest installation and it was worth the price of admission.

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