13 September, 2012

30 Reviews In 30 Days: Review #13

Throbbing Gristle, D.O.A. (The Third and Final Report of Throbbing Gristle) (Industrial, 1978)

D.O.A. was where Throbbing Gristle's music first evolved. Second Annual Report was a great statement of intent for the group (mindlessly deadening synthesizer patterns, utterly suffocating and mostly arrhythmic electronic atmosphere, vicious processed guitar noise, and Genesis P-Orridge's completely soulless, evil croak of a voice), but much as I enjoy it, it was still a fairly primitive work, mostly a compendium of fascinating and difficult excerpts of the group's experimental and largely improvised live performances. D.O.A., in contrast, is clearly constructed as more of an actual album than Second Annual Report was ever intended to be. It still compiles choice live improvisations and juxtaposes them against studio performances, but does so in a much more carefully considered manner. Tracks consisting almost solely of unsettling electronic noise (the malfunctioning opener "IBM," the choppy, pulsing instrumental "Dead on Arrival," the grinding insanity of "Walls of Sound," the awfully creepy and appropriately sick-sounding "E-Coli") push up against memorable, horrendously frightening near-songs (the devastating portrait of depressive suburban hell "Weeping" and the infamously terrifying "Hamburger Lady"), which are followed in turn by almost playful and beautiful tracks (the almost ambient "Hometime," which consists of spacey guitar and happy children's voices, and the danceable, shockingly tuneful proto-electronica of "AB/7A"). There's no pinning the record down emotionally; though it's certainly a collection of sometimes completely impenetrable and extremely noisy avant-garde material, it manages to convey a sea of different emotions and moods almost effortlessly. This ability to shift mood at will is the quality that makes D.O.A. as effective as it is, and what makes it one of Throbbing Gristle's most successful and most influential albums. At their best, this band made deeply demented, messed up and fiercely intelligent music, and D.O.A. deserves to be as influential as it has become. They were so effective at scaring people that they included a recording of death threats left on their answering machine on this album. Let's see pretty much any band that considers themselves transgressive try and top that.

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