Music, Venue

Throbbing Gristle: 20 Jazz Funk Greats (reaction as a newbie to the genre)

Ok, I mostly listen to hip-hop, but I’ve been trying new things during this lockdown. I’d branched out with some progressive and alternative rock even before lockdown started, and synthpop has always had a nostalgia for me because of my mother’s love for it. When I approached Lewis about an album to try – industrial was the genre I decided to go for – he suggested ‘20 Jazz Funk Greats’ by Throbbing Gristle. The name of the album, as you might have guessed, is quite deceptive.

Although the name ‘industrial’ makes me think of music that’s loud and grating, I wouldn’t describe any of this record as ‘loud’- synths are minimal, drums are lowkey, vocals are spoken, occasionally yelled. I didn’t actually expect vocals at all, and when they came up, they creeped me out a little. The opening track, also the title track, has a few whispered words scattered between the saxophone-like synths.

‘Beachy Head’ is a dense dirge, immediately reminding me of the ending of some sci-fi horror movie’s ending – intensely thoughtful. ‘Convincing People’ features similarly strange vocals to the title track, but more of them this time, mostly repeating variations of the title. At this point in the album things were starting to get surreal. Someone made this? Why? I’d say I was enjoying the album in a strange way, and I felt that pairing nasally vocals with distorted minimalism worked pretty well. Had I heard any other voice over the production, or vice-versa, things would have been quite different.

It’s when I reached ‘Persuasion’ that I finally understood the twisted nature of this album.

The track ‘Persuasion’ is deeply disturbing – lyrics about panties tend to be, especially when spoken in a British accent over a noisy, throbbing industrial soundscape. A character is being portrayed here – a groomer of young women, one that keeps panties in a biscuit tin, one who calls his pressuring sexual advances ‘Persuasion’- and I felt it perfectly. The purpose of this track, and the album as a whole, was fulfilled.I can’t say I enjoyed ‘20 Jazz Funk Greats’ as such, although I do appreciate it for what it set out to do. None of these songs are going into any of my current playlists, but I could probably create one for when I’m trying to capture a vile vibe in my creative work. I recommend that anyone listen to this, at least once.

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Jack Oxford

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July 2021
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