Saturday, July 02, 2005

Psychic TV: Live In Heaven

A Temple Record, 1987

Psychic TV was one of the bands formed from the cremains of the first incarnation of Throbbing Gristle. The leader was Genesis P-Orridge whose name always made me think about the origin of mediocre British breakfast cereal. Essentially the band is P-Orridge and whatever cast of miscreants and musicians he can assemble. There's also a cultish bent to the P-Orridge's hype about the band. Applicants to the Temple ov Thee Psychick Youth were encouraged to send their bodily fluids -- for Pan knows what purpose. Orridge fancies himself a thinker/artist in the mold of Burroughs and Crowley but then he also thinks Anton Newcombe is one of the most talented songwriters ever. The band, however, mutated throughout the 80's. Whereas at first it tried to shake off the bonds and expectations of being an "industrial music" band and explored post-punk improv and psyche, it later became more well known as an early innovator in Acid House (I have ZERO Acid House albums, so I can't tell ya whether it was good or bad).

So, in the 80's, Psychic TV embarked on this ambitious project to release, I believe, a dozen "limited-edition' live albums sporting this rather keen design and then the plan was to offer a 13th album to the poor sods, er, Psychick Youth who actually bought every record. There's a little insert coupon in each album which I suppose you are to redeem when and if the project ever concludes. To the best of my knowledge, it never did but I haven't done much research on the question.

Live in Heaven was recorded on my birthday (December 23rd) in 1986 in a London Charing Cross club called Heaven. It has a heavy improvised feel - most of the songs are simple two chord jams over which Orridge spits and purrs his surreal and often ridiculous lyrics.

It starts out with a clarinet playing a Pipes of Pan at Dawn of the Gates of Whatever and this culminates with the rest of the musicians crescendoing into a short taped piece about someone hearing voices from beyond. Then Orridge arrives and begins singing a sick song about eating a girlfriend's leg because he wants to protect her and it really looks good.

Or something like that.

"Paradise Lost," though, isn't too bad - it's a sort of an undone Joy Division lock groove overlaid with Orridge's nasal wheeze. But because its early in the record, his vocals are only annoying and not overbearing. Here, he is a misshapen troll singing/improvising a love song: "I like you / because you're very nice" and it all comes together for a moment. Plus its got a pretty bass line.

This is followed by (again, not sure of titles) "Lies and Spies" / "Revenge on God" which reminds one of an experimental pairing of The Birthday Party and Jim Morrison. I'm not exactly saying that's a good thing. After a few minutes into the track, my hand reaches for the needle as there's only so much one can take of Orridge and his vocal overcompensations.

I return to this record several days later to tackle the 2nd side or at least let it ooze through my fingers. The first three cuts are really for fans of Orridge only - I find myself pushing the needle down the groove with each successive track. G, I really hope you have learned to edit yourself by now or have found stronger musicians to play with but I'm guessing from your website that's probably not the case. Well, Throbbing Gristle recently reunited, so there's that.

But the last song on this second side is called "Radium" and it's pretty much a pre-Acid House piece. It's not so much as a mind-fuck but a mind-finger-fuck. And maybe it's only a pinky finger. I mean, take enough drugs and pretty much anything sounds cool. Orridge goes overboard again, though, detracting from the oterhwise nice but jarring ear candy. I wonder what this band would have been like if P-Orridge's ego didn't get in the way?

If I was one of those grader types, I'd give this a C+, mmmm'kay?

Psychic TV line-up for Live in Heaven:
Dave Ball (ex-Soft Cell) - Keyboards
Monte Cazazza - Guitar
Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson - Keybaords
John Gosling - Samples, Percussion
Mouse - Bass Guitar, Clarinet
Genesis P-Orridge - Repartee
Paula P-Orridge - Vibes, Percussion
Live Mix by Ken Thomas

Song samples:
"I Hear Voices"


Genesis P-Orridge's Website includes a group blog where Genesis turns up occasionally to direct cult leaderish directives to his motley band of Internet followers. Here's a funny quote in which he berates the people who make fun of him and his latest experiments in Pangenderism (he's transforming himself into a boy-girl thing). Stop hatin' on Genesis, peeps!:
All that being understood, we are coumtimes surprised that coum people repeatedly visit whilst proclaiming disinterest, being pointlessly rude and only coumplaining. I.T. has never been appealing to US to devote hours ov priceless T.I.M.E. and L-if-E to buying CDs, paying to go to gigs, coumtimes building websites dedicated to describing what we DON'T like, and emailing disdain deliberately to hurt coumone's feelings repeatedly when I.T. is coumthing, or art, or one we don't enjoy or like! From thee outside I.T. is hard to coumprehend why anyone would waste their energies on negativity alone. To get pleasure from hurting coumone else, or wishing to, especially coumone you probably don't know, seems highly irrational.
Dont' forget to check out his fab bio! And...

A P-TV fan site (FOPI) has put together a list of all the 94 (so far) contributors to Psychic TV and little bios and interviews with many of them.

Trouser Press Psychic TV page (Ira Robbins)

Loki (one of my earliest supporters) seems to be the most knowledgeable of Psychic TV in the "music blog community"... Here's a recent posting on one of the sister albums to the live series. He also expresses frustration with P-Orridge:
When singers who can't sing stop primal screaming/Gristlizing and start doing, well,this kind of thing you sense they've lost perspective somehow, sense they've somehow forgotten that they can't sing, that acclaim and/or raw fame has touched too many nerves and now they don't know which ones are twitching or how to turn them off.

Saved Round:

Thank you to Douglas Wolk who linked to Vinyl Mine and others in his recent article on Music Blogs on the L.A. Times website. Wolk's own music blog/website is Lacunae and he actually writes for a living about music (his website has links to his stuff). He recently wrote about The Fall and in particular Mark E. Smith's voice which turns people off in much the way Orridge's voice turns me off. Smith's voice I can listen to for much longer periods of time -- but he also doesn't over-dominate his band either.

Also, my faves of 2005 and the decade so far.


Anonymous said...

how bout some more volcano suns? sea cruise and greasy spine rocked!

Jim H said...

Yes, Psychic TV def. do not rock. I think All Night Lotus Party is in the remainder of my current box o' records.

Jakob said...

i saw p-orridge on dig. he was weird enough for me to not ever want to listen to his music.

Jim H said...

I didn't think he we particularily weird in Dig! but I wasn't always paying attention cuz I was laughing too much at Newcombe and that a-hole from Dandy Warhols.

But why should "weird" be criteria for listening or not listening to anyone's music. I mean Lou Reed was a tranvestite-loving cocrophiliac (if reports are to be believed) -- does that make the White Light any less listenable?

By the way, people who know P-Orridge have nothing but fine things to say about him (which is more than can be said for the average musician/artist) and I have nothing but respect for his staying true to his vision even if I dont' enjoy his music or art.

Anonymous said...

I never fully understood psychic tv, p-orridge, etc. however it should be known that they did have one really good song call ed 'orchids'. it was a sample (?) of a traditional methodist hymn (?) which was supposed to have been a paean to genital mutilation, or something.

two other highly unconfirmed rumors of note which have been cluttering my brain since 1987:

1) genesis was the first briton in something like 160 years to be tried on charges of treason.
2) p-tv released a single in honor of Brian Jones. the story is that they held a seance, recorded the session, and claimed that Brian himself "channeled" the guitar track onto the 7".

. said...

Пи-Орридж и всё тут...