Friday, June 22, 2007

The Mellowing Of My Most Extreme Tastes

The legendary Throbbing Gristle have a new studio album out. It is their first studio work in nearly thirty years and it is getting mostly very positive reviews. There was a period in my early twenties when Throbbing Gristle were among my favorite bands but I haven't been able to listen to them in years and am wondering whether or not I will get the new album.
It is funny that while my taste in films has perhaps gotten more and more extreme, I have found that my likes in literature, painting and especially music have really mellowed out. At any particular day in my early to mid twenties you could have found me listening to bands such as Throbbing Gristle, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Diamanda Galas or The Swans while reading something like the most abstract cut up work of Williams Burroughs.
I was really obsessed with artists who were really willing to push a form to its furthest extremes and I was more than willing to take their journey with them.
Looking back at my early twenties I now realize how depressed and confused I was much of the time and my taste in music and art definitely reflected that. I loved and admired so many of those people though like Lydia Lunch, Genesis P. Orridge, Diamanda Galas and Brion Gysin. I think that their extreme and at times extremely cynical world visions probably helped me get through a most sticky time period, even if at the same time I was letting them add to it.
I'm in a bit of a weird mood today which I guess is why I am writing this. I listened to some samples of the new Throbbing Gristle this morning and I must admit that it sounds very good but I just don't think that I have it in me anymore to give myself over to it.
I remember once during my Freshman year of college I played part of Throbbing Gristle's first album for a girlfriend and she started sobbing. It really shook her up and she was upset for days after. I had never seen music or art that had that kind of an effect on somebody and it made a big impression on me. She asked me several times after that how I could listen to it and made me promise to not play it while she was around anymore.
It is to Throbbing Gristle's credit as artists that they could cause such a disturbing reaction in someone but it is hard for me to imagine being able to enclose myself in that kind of art anymore. I have the utmost respect for artists like Throbbing Gristle, Lydia Lunch, Michael Gira or anyone who is willing to push a medium to its furthest extremes no matter the cost but I just can't follow it anymore.
I'm not sure why my tastes in film haven't mellowed but a filmmaker like Gaspar Noe, who could be called the cinematic equivalent of a band like Throbbing Gristle, remains a favorite. Maybe it has something to do with things that I connect to a certain period of my life, I don't know.
I hate the word mellowing and I certainly hate to use it in relation to myself. It represents a defeat of sorts, a sign that I am not willing to go as far as I used to. I suppose it is natural but occasionally I have to pull out something like Teenage Jesus or Throbbing Gristle to remind me that art doesn't always have to be safe and pleasant. There are, and have always been, certain artists who are willing to go and explore the darkest aspects of human nature. Our society needs them and they are to be held in the highest of esteem for their courage and willingness to go to these places...but for the most part it is a journey that I am unable to take these days.
I might get the new Throbbing Gristle as I am curious to hear it but I doubt that I will play it much. Their return should be celebrated though as our modern culture is overly saturated by safe art and artists who skirt over dark terrains. Throbbing Gristle will not ever be a safe band skirting over anything, their home is deep inside the very dark places most artists wouldn't even consider going near. I wish them luck in their ongoing journey even though it is one I can't continue with them.


Cinebeats said...

I think as individuals we grow and change a lot. I wouldn't really call it "mellowing" but more like finding out what works for you maybe?

When you're young you (at least I did) experiment with all kinds of music, art, etc. and you're always discovering new things. as you get older the discovery process tends to slow down a bit more and you start to find what works for you. In other words, what music you enjoy listening to, what types of literature you enjoy reading and what films you enjoy watching.

Of course I could be totally wrong but I see myself in some of what you're saying. I totally respect artists like Diamanda Galas & The Swans for example, but their music can be very demanding and emotionally draining. In my late teens and twenties I could listen to them all the damn time, but now I listen to them maybe once or twice a year. I don't like them any less as artists.

I'm the same way about very demanding & emotionally draining films. I love Gaspar Noe's films which you mentioned, but I don't know when I'll be able to watch I Stand Alone again for example. Lately I tend to fill a lot of of my time with entertaining stuff like spy films, Doris Day movies or biker movies until I'm in the mood for something really heady which is only about once a week.

I do know that there is a lot of music which I tend to associate with different periods of my life and I don't always want to go back to the place that is evoked by a particular tune so that may have something to do with you're own desire to sort of move on and listen to different or new things too?

I don't have the same associations with films and books.

Anyway, sorry for all the babble but I felt like adding my random 2 cents. Hopefully I made sense. ;)

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Kimberly,
I really enjoyed reading your thoughts about this. It must just have something to do with getting older and that idea that (as you so nicely phrased it) 'the discovery process tends to slow down a bit more.'
I think lately I have been missing how much I used to challange myself with different things as most of the times now I really just want to watch and listen to stuff that just makes me happy.
I am glad that I am at least aware of it and still try to occasionally pull out a record or book that will push me emotionally and spiritually.
It is funny how music, for the most part, can bring a person back to a point in their lives much more than say a film or book.
Anyway, I really appreciate you taking the time to leave such insightful comments. Thank you.

Rogue Spy 007 said...

I don't know whether I would call it mellowing or not, but I know that I personally listen to different music that I did when I was younger. I was very much into gothic, black metal, and other darker music. I do think I was going through a dark, depressing, angry, and hateful time in my life. I wanted music to reflect the mood and attitude I had. It fit with the way I saw myself and the world. As I've gotten older and become more comfortable with myself, I started listening to definitely much different music. I'm much more likely to listen to the Rat Pack or French pop music than Bauhaus or Christian Death.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Keith,
It is amazing how much music can take you back to a particular point in your life. i have lots of stuff that I love but that reminds me of certain bad things so I can't listen to it much...a bit frustrating.
Still love Bauhaus, seeing Peter Murphy live was still one of the great concert experiences...thanks for the comments.

Richard Gibson said...

I too, *used* to be into them. I have a few albums kicking around and last week in my local charity shop there were a few, including the last concert (SF) which I don't think I have. I think that '20 Jazz Funk Greats' is a decent album but I too haven't listened to them in years and years and I do think that my tastes are mellowing...

...I'm off to listen to a bit of Gentleman Jim Reeves, 'Bimbo' anyone?

PS - had no idea they had a new LP out but should have guessed as I saw there was a concert at one of the festivals.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks for your thoughts Richard...the Funk Greats album was easily one of their most listenable....the third album was probably my favorite but it has been a long time...I appreciate your comments...