The notion of a new generation of musicians digging up the remains of Throbbing Gristle, dressing them up in 21th century outfits and letting them loose on an unsuspecting new generation rapidly gave me associations of a sort of musical necrophilia. But that was before I’d actually seen the carcass in action – so to speak.
Only the first in a string of events of the Throbbing year 2004, “Mutant TG” is, unlike stillborn projects like The Beatles’ “Let It Be... Naked” or the, admittedly successfully, remixed and revamped version of Iggy and the Stooges “Raw Power”, not so much an attempt at historical revision as an opportunity for Throbbing Gristle to get seen in a new light. At least the UK music (not to mention tabloid...) press have been all too busy to both buy into the nastier gossip surrounding the quartet, and dismiss their music for being something as perceivably unfashionable as industrial, to seem to have really paid much attention to what they actually sounded like. If they had, they would have noticed that Throbbing Gristle’s legacy is unquestionable and splattered all over certain parts of today’s music climate, something of which “Mutant TG” is testimony to.
Here, Two Lone Swordsmen, Detroit techno icon Carl Craig, Simon Rartcliffe of Basement Jaxx and others are given free hands with a couple of evergreens from the Throbbing Gristle catalogue. The results are both surprisingly good and, in a couple of cases, surprisingly true to the originals. Novamute glitch punk duo Motor turn “Persuasion” into a distorted beast but retains the often overlooked pop sensibility that sometimes shines through in TG’s music. Carl Craig treats “Hot on the Heels of Love” with an almost too gentle touch, adding a more marked drum beat and stretching it out to nine minutes but keeping both a lot of the sounds and the spirit of the awesome original. Simon Ratcliffe’s remix of the same track is arguably the album’s most successful, layers of shimmering electronics expanding on the seductive atmosphere until you feel like you’re lost in a warped hall of mirrors.
I’m not quite sure what to think of Two Lone Swordsmen’s work on the brilliant “United”, though. They’ve increased the tempo, along with which comes timestretching of the vocals – thankfully not in UK garage squirrel style, but enough to remove a lot of the original’s cold beauty. Carter Tutti (half of Throbbing Gristle, and formerly known as Chris & Cosey) contributes two remixes, neither of which are among the most impressive. They don’t manage to do anything remarkable to “Hamburger Lady”, and the closing track “HotHeelsUnited” is a fusion of “Hot on the Heels of Love” (again) and “United” that leaves me cold. It would have been more interesting to hear what alchemical wonders Throbbing Gristle sampling pioneer Peter Christopherson (now in the otherworldly Coil) could surely have worked on some base old Gristle.
Despite these minor flaws, “Mutant TG” is a Frankensteinian hour of the most successful kind.