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Music / Throbbing Gristle

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"Industrial culture? There has been a phenomena; I don't know whether it's strong enough to be a culture. I do think what we did has had a reverberation right around the world and back."
Genesis P-Orridge

Widely recognized as the Ur-Example and Trope Namer of the genre, Throbbing Gristle was an avant-garde industrial band from England, originally active from 1975 to 1981. They reunited in 2004, only to disband again in 2010 after the death of Peter Christopherson.

The group was notorious in the 70s for their transgressive, gruesome live shows and extremely dark lyrical content, which covered (among other things) serial killers, cynical political/social commentary, and feelings of angry helplessness that followed the 1960s; this effectively set the tone for future industrial bands, whose subject matter rarely strayed far from these themes. They also founded Industrial Records, the label which gave the industrial genre its name, and published many of its earlier exponents.

Band members included:

  • Genesis P-Orridge (bass, violin, vocals, vibraphone)
  • Cosey Fanni Tutti (guitars, cornet, vocals)
  • Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson (tapes, found sounds, horns, vibraphone, synthesizer; also a member of Hipgnosis studio and Coil)
  • Chris Carter (synthesizers, tapes, electronics)


Studio Albums

  • The Second Annual Report (1977; combination of live and studio tracks)
  • D.o.A: The Third and Final Report of Throbbing Gristle (1978)
  • 20 Jazz Funk Greats (1979)
  • Journey Through a Body (1982)
  • CD1 (1986)
  • TG Now (2004)
  • Part Two: The Endless Not (2007)
  • The Third Mind Movements (2009; sold only at tour venues and on the band's website)

Live Albums

  • Heathen Earth (1980)
  • Mission of Dead Souls (1981)
  • TG24 (2004)
  • TG+ (2004)
  • Live December 2004 A Souvenir Of Camber Sands (2004)
  • The Thirty-Second Annual Report (2008)

Misc. Albums

  • The First Annual Report (bootleg of unreleased music recorded in 1975 but released most prominently in 2001)
  • In the Shadow of the Sun (1984; soundtrack to the film of the same name)
  • Mutant Throbbing Gristle (2004; Remix Album)

This band provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Affectionate Parody: "Hot on the Heels of Love" for Giorgio Moroder, of whom the band were professed fans.
    • Additionally, AB/7A and Walkabout from their studio albums, Day Song from their live shows. Chris Carter would eventually release his own material in the vein of said songs.
  • And I Must Scream: "Hamburger Lady". She's been burnt from the waist up and is stuck to several wires in a hospital bed.
  • The Band Minus the Face: X-TG. Genesis pretty much left the band in 2010, and s/he refused to let the remaining members use the name. They folded soon after the death of Christopherson, but continued releasing works up to the end of 2012.
  • Bizarre Instrument: The Gristleizer, a standalone version of a synthesizer filter bank based on a modified DIY project.
  • Black Comedy:
    • "We Hate You (Little Girls)"
    • The innocent-looking cover of 20 Jazz-Funk Greats has the band on Beachy Head, a popular suicide spot.
  • Careful with That Axe: P-Orridge dips into this very, very frequently.
  • Covers Always Lie: The title and cover of 20 Jazz Funk Greats, which were deliberately designed to make the album look much more innocuous than it is.
    • In the same spirit, the compilation Greatest Hits depicts Cosey Fanni Tutti posing in a bikini inside a tiki hut, with only the subtitle of Entertainment Through Pain and perhaps Cosey's unnerving stare giving the hint that it's not some kind of bachelor pad exotica album.
  • Disobey This Message: Invoked and deconstructed with "Don't Do As You're Told, Do As You Think" and, more subtly, "Convincing People".
  • Drone of Dread: Quite a lot of their material, most infamously "Hamburger Lady" and "Slug Bait".
  • Gorn: "Slug Bait" and "Very Friendly"
  • Improv: Most of their live shows extended their songs length by several minutes, with mostly improvised or added lyrics to some of their songs.
  • Industrial: The Trope Codifier and arguable Trope Maker. In any case, their record label was the Trope Namer.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: "Throbbing gristle" was an old regional slang term for an erection.
  • Lead Bassist: Genesis P-orridge.
  • Mind Rape: "Persuasion" is from the perspective of a man emotionally abusing a woman into taking her clothes off.
  • Mind Screw: Just about everything about their music.
  • Mood Whiplash: Towards the end of 20 Jazz Funk Greats, the relatively pleasant and tender instrumental "Walkabout" is immediately followed by "What a Day", which is easily the harshest and heaviest song on the entire album.
  • Nobody Loves the Bassist: In the later years of the band, this was the rest of the group's opinion. In the liner notes of X-TG's Desertshore/The Final Report, wherein Chris and Cosey related the good times they and Sleazy had together, Genesis isn't even mentioned.
  • No Ending: Their live performances would often end up abruptly, simply because they would cut the power when their time had elapsed.
  • Non-Indicative Name: 20 Jazz Funk Greats does not contain twenty jazz and/or funk greats; the name was picked as a joke.
  • Obligatory Bondage Song: Played with on "Discipline" and "Persuasion".
  • Packaged as Other Medium: 20 Jazz Funk Greats is made to resemble an easy-listening compilation, featuring an unassuming photo of the band in a green field (actually Beachy Head, a notorious suicide spot). According to Cosey Fanni Tutti, the idea was to make the album look like something from a bargain bin, so that unassuming buyers would grab a copy and get "decimated" by the harsh industrial material within.
    • Second Annual Report and the succeeding album resemble an archival recording of some sort, with the cover being innocuous enough to be a document cover.
  • Ripped from the Headlines:"Slug Bait" and "Very Friendly" were both inspired by actual killings, and "Hamburger Lady" was based off a medical letter the band read.
  • Sampling: One of the very first musical acts of any genre to do this- they built primitive sampling equipment themselves, since at the time such things weren't commercially feasible. They generally sampled everyday sounds, machine noises and the rantings of criminals and the mentally ill, rather then other music, though.
  • Scary Musician, Harmless Music: Inverted. Despite the harshness of their music and their twisted lyrics, the band members didn't look that intimidating, and they came across as friendly and well-adjusted off-stage.
  • Sensory Abuse: Their live performances often mixed extreme sonic frequencies with wild visuals and intense lighting effects for the express purpose of disorienting their audience.
  • Serial Killer: "Very Friendly", "Urge to Kill", "Slug Bait"...
  • Spoken Word in Music: Several of their songs included it. "Live at Brighton" from their first album chillingly included the confession of a child rapist turned killer.
  • Stealth Parody: "United", "20 Jazz Funk Greats" and "Hot On The Heels Of Love" all play with this, to differing degrees.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: YES, even this group have a few moments of beauty in their catalog, in particular "United" and the instrumental tracks "Walkabout" and "Hometime".
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The Second Annual Report caps off the A-side with one aimed at the band, from a DJ at the Brighton show featured earlier in the album.
  • This Loser Is You: "Maggot Death" may or may not be this.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Their earlier works tended to fall into this.
  • Vomiting Cop: In "Hamburger Lady," there's a shortage of "qualified technicians" to change the titular burn victim's tubes because they can't keep their last meal down after encountering her.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Invoked with "Five Knuckle Shuffle", gradually devolving into Singing Simlish.