X-TG (Members of Throbbing Gristle) Revive Nico's Lost Classic, Desertshore
By Alex Jarson
Okay, we know you just love the Velvet Underground--you're sporting the latest fall calendar Urban Outfitters top, your mom took you to get the Warhol Banana tattooed on your bicep, and you think they're the greatest, most provocative band to have ever graced this earth. You even play Nico's Chelsea Girl from time to time and swear to god you know who Lou Reed is. (Didn't he do some stuff with Metallica or something?) It's okay, we get it. You're cool. You don't have to prove it to us. But who is Nico?
Nico is the soul behind the monotone voice you love in Velvet songs like "I'll Be Your Mirror" and "There She Goes Again." She is proud, prominent, and very hard to ignore. As her musical career progressed away from the Velvet Underground, she continued to serve as a beacon of truth. Despite whatever sorrows come your way, history will pay tribute to the character you made of yourself.
Here in 2012, it has been 24 years since the drug-burdened star passed away from a head injury in Europe. Conjointly, it has been almost two years since the passing of Throbbing Gristle/Coil's electronic prodigy Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson.
It makes sense, in so many ways, for surviving members Cosey Fanni Tutti and Chris Carter to pay tribute to him by releasing the very first Desertshore covers album. The idea came from Christopherson himself as early as 2006, though the project was abandoned and left to catch dust after heart problems led to his untimely death in 2010.
Now, the members of TG have come together to complete his wish. All, that is, except frontman/woman Genesis P. Orridge, who has taken the battle to Twitter, exclaiming:
"CHRIS & COSEY released the TG records without my consent & have kept all the money...Chris & Cosey said NO RECORD can be TG unless it is ALL 4 of us. DESERTSHORE is NOT a legitimate TG release."
Despite Orridge's cries, the project makes absolute sense. Desertshore is a disorienting record. "Janitor of Lunacy" strives to pull you in, leaving you breathless and shivering, paralyzed by Nico's voice. She shouts, "Seal the giving of their seed. Disease the breathing grief." Christopherson was known for his contemplations of life, sorrow, and pain; recognizing kindred themes in Nico's overlooked catalog feels natural.
The accordions drone with varying highs and lows. You don't know what you're listening to. This is the "desertshore" we find ourselves in. The music is pure and demands your attention. You are caught in a cycle of love and despair, life and death. Yet, ultimately we come out unscathed, reborn in ignorance and joy--the crashing shore in the horizon.
What happens after is inconsequential. You must move on to the next celebration.
Truly, both artists' intentions have always been obvious, albeit different. Nico is the voice that could accompany a funeral; Christopherson is the alchemical mastermind behind the whole thing altogether. Both serve to guide culture forward with their play on abstractions within space and time.
They conjure up eternal images of a mystical, past world. Europa--ripe with tears of war and the promise of a just God and afterlife, begotten with stone, metal, and brutal worship. However, what Desertshore offers us is a glimpse into the long, slow haul of Nico's life, the strange familiar sadness of a girl who yearns to break free of herself. She is someone who wishes to be recognized.
This is Nico's goodbye and farewell, her call to us and her mark on the desert shore. This is her rebirth into something unknown, before the dawn of a new era of music accompanied by the bizarrely mechanic drone of Brian Eno's synthesizers. She speaks instead of singing, "Meet me at the desertshore. Meet me at the desertshore." And we always do, paying homage to an artist most often overlooked and most definitely overshadowed by the hazy glow of rock 'n roll in the 1970s.
More than forty years after its first release, X-TG (the name drawing distinction between the original lineup of Throbbing Gristle and this outfit) have stripped down, re-written, and cut-up Desertshore. As to Genesis's harsh words, Carter, a lifelong member of TG, responded by saying, "Get your facts straight before accusing us. DS is NOT being released as a Throbbing Gristle album."
Whatever side of the fence you're on, the album yearns to be heard. Featuring some of Christopherson's favorite guest artists such as Sasha Grey, French film director Gaspar Noe, and Marc Almond of Soft Cell.
Both Nico and Christopherson demonstrate that the role of the artist is often a tragic one. We fall in love with their music. We must not dismiss them; we should instead celebrate them for what they have taught us. So maybe you should replace that banana tattoo with a psychic cross.
Actually, don't do that. Don't ruin it for the rest of us, man.
X-TG's Desertshore and The Final Report were released on Monday, November 27, 2012.
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