Throbbing Gristle - Second Annual Report
We've talked about the legendary, genre defining English band Throbbing Gristle quite a lot in this newsletter. And in fact, you have probably read a whole lot about their history and the influence their records have on music. I notice however, very few people bring up their audacious debut The Second Annual Report as one of the ESSENTIAL albums. And it always struck me as curious; maybe it's because it is their first album, there aren't any real memorable tunes like on 20 Jazz Funk Greats. However, Second Annual Report is as powerful and essential as the rest, sheerly for how beautifully elegant they laid out the whole mission statement of TG with this record. The cover is stark and bare, with only a tiny, bordered off area with the title, band name and when/where it was recorded. The presentation is clean and industrial in itself, leaving nothing but mystery to the eyes of anyone who looks at it. This was the tipping point for a new wave of musical creativity in the UK. An extension of punk rock if you will, trying to be confrontational and make you question what you see. Breaking away from the norms and the pleasantness of society and showing the ugly side, the real side. The music was supposed to infuriate you; even the title alone is confusing and doesn't make sense. There is no first report, and this is not some annual event they captured; just bits and pieces of live sets captured in 1977. Musically, the sounds on Second Annual are pretty much what anyone thinking a band called Throbbing Gristle would sound like. It's lo-fi, gritty, unsettling, disgusting, and perverted. It's an album that, at the time, proudly proclaimed that “this is the only album where you would hear three songs about eating a baby.” The cassette walkman fidelity of these live vignettes strengthens all the rust and grit in each lyric and every loop, electronic sound, or sample that Sleazy, the bands main gear man, would trigger. It's ugly noise music and confrontational to the fullest. Genesis's heavily effected vocals are downright chilling, as the lyrics echo and reverberate through the venue describing literally murdering a whole family with a knife. It's this kind of approach to music, and new levels of confrontation and ways to compose a band that made TG such a powerful force, so powerful that we're still talking about them today. I adore the ending of side A, where you hear Genesis telling off the live crowd for not understanding what they are trying to do, calling them wankers and idiots. I can imagine they used to get that quite a lot back in the day. Side B is a 20-minute epic of slow moving, churning synth sounds and textures. Recorded live (again) when the band was commissioned to perform a live score for a film produced by Coum Transmissions called After Cease To Exist. This I feel is the 2nd course to the A-side, going more for a slow burn approach where you can just get lost in the world it's trying to create. Very similar to the whole Heathen Earth experience actually. Still unbelievably good though, as you should all know. If anything, this review should just get you to put your own copy of Second Annual Report on again. I had a blast revisiting this album, still as gritty and important as it was 40 years ago. (VII)
Check out a track here.