Although T.G. were initially considered part of the punk crowd, that was never actually the case. In fact, P-Orridge often referred to himself as “an old hippie.” They did believe in the D.I.Y. ethic however, and started the Industrial Records label to release their albums. When the label became too successful for them to easily deal with, it was shut down. The music was licensed out to Mute Records for distribution.
The arrangement worked for many years, but the members of T.G. recently decided to reactivate Industrial, and re-release the original Throbbing Gristle albums in deluxe two-disc packages. All of the original artwork and liner notes have been preserved, plus some rare pictures from the collection of Cosey Fanni Tutti.
The bonus discs feature live material and non-LP tracks from the year each record was released. For the second Heathen Earth CD, there are a total of eleven tracks, nine of which were recorded live in 1980. It is especially illuminating to listen to these live cuts next to those that comprise Heathen Earth. For one thing, the difference in sound quality is pretty noticeable. But it is the energy that really strikes me. The vibe is menacing, as if the crowd are just a tick away from tearing the band apart. And the music just seems to turn the dial up notch by notch. There is an undeniable thrill in the tactile danger that comes through, but “fun” is definitely not a word I would use to describe it.
Rounding out the bonus CD are two non-LP singles released in 1980, “Subhuman,” and “Adrenalin.” The songs could not be more dissimilar. According to Simon Ford’s detailed account in his book Wreckers Of Civilization, “Subhuman” is P-Orridge’s evocation of the drug-dealing low-lifes who had taken up residence in the vacant lot behind T.G’s studio in the hardscrabble London borough of Hackney. It is a viscerally angry, ugly rant.
“Adrenalin” is something else entirely, and offers an intriguing “might have been” for a future T.G. After the release of Heathen Earth, Carter and Tutti formed Chris And Cosey. The music they have recorded over the past 30 years has been wide ranging, but what I have often noticed is a much “calmer” sensibility to much of it. P-Orridge and Sleazy formed Psychic TV, although Christopherson left to form the influential Coil early on. What “Adrenalin” suggests to me is just how would these late-seventies anarchists have fared (had they stayed together) in the “Greed is good” eighties?