» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum

September 18, 2008
Rating: 8/10

Throbbing Gristle is one of those bands that have quietly done wonders for the world. Granted, they have not come up with a cure for cancer, or solved world hunger; but what the British quartet have in fact done is produce some of the strongest, most original, and most influential industrial music ever. Given the hit-and-miss quality of the genre, if that's not a musical wonder, I don't know what is.

Released nearly three decades ago, 20 Jazz Funk Greats not only had an awesome title (and a complimentary cover that was ironic even before irony was cool), it was also one of the defining albums of one of electronic music's most defining bands. Of the Gristle discography, in my book 20 Jazz Funk Greats is only surpassed by the group's debut release, The Second Annual Report, released two years prior. In Drew Daniel's book, however, 20 Jazz Funk Greats is the pinnacle of Throbbing Gristle's output, and hence worthy of an entire text in the 33-1/3 series on seminal albums.

Initially released in 1979 on the Industrial Records label, 20 Jazz Funk Greats was a groundbreaking album, perhaps the first truly industrial album to be both musically experimental and at the same time accessible to the average listener. That accessibility is what lends the album its relevance in the pantheon of music history, and likely a major consideration in Matmos member Drew Daniel's decision to have a go at musing on it in depth. And have a go he does - Daniel does an excellent job dissecting the album, covering every aspect of it; from the cover art to individual songs.

The most interesting part of the book is Daniel's retelling of the story of how Throbbing Gristle - with their bleak worldview, experimental sounds, and all-around challenging art - became a huge part of his own teenage years. In this regard Daniel makes the band and the album relatable, through a connection to the universal teenage search for something defining and truly out of the ordinary, something to call one's own, no matter how dark or twisted. Daniel's recollection of the impact of Throbbing Gristle on his teenage years is both fascinating and familiar.

Beyond the universality of Daniel's own attraction to the band, the most interesting part of the book is the dissection of the 20 Jazz Funk Greats cover; a flowery, over-saturated photo of the band, all smiles and joy, posing along cliffs overlooking the beautiful expanse of the ocean below. The location for the cover photo shoot was the chalky escarpment of Beachy Head, one of England's most popular suicide spots. This cover shows Throbbing Gristle as a successful, nicely dressed band (they recently re-grouped after a very long hiatus which began two years after the album's release), and it goes oddly well with their songs. That such a wholesome image would match up with an industrial act of any era is a testament to the pop sensibilities that underscore Throbbing Gristle tunes. Indeed, 20 Jazz Funk Greats has an almost sing-a-long quality at times, yet is infused with a bleakness and darkness that can not always be heard, but is always present in one way or another. The album's back panel shows the same picture, rendered in black and white, and with a nude male corpse laying before the smiling members; a creepy shot that perhaps better represents the band, but was too blunt and apparent to be an album cover in 1979. As it turned out, the cropped image on the front cover was a stroke of sheer genius.

A real compliment to 20 Jazz Funk Greats, Daniel's book is a small masterpiece in itself, jam-packed with memories, interviews and dissection of songs. The touch Daniel provides makes the book a great read, even for those not familiar with Throbbing Gristle fan, and reading it provides great insight into industrial and experimental music. At the very least, it'll come in handy at the next dinner party where the topic of conversation turns to famous English suicide spots.

SEE ALSO: www.throbbing-gristle.com
SEE ALSO: www.33third.blogspot.com
SEE ALSO: www.continuumbooks.com
SEE ALSO: www.brainwashed.com/matmos/

Daniel Svanberg
A contributing writer for LAS, Daniel Svanberg now lives in Boston, far far away from Sweden, where he once lived, although the weather is the same.

See other articles by Daniel Svanberg.



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