From the very outset of this review I have to confess a fondness for the physical format chosen by publishers Bloomsbury for their ongoing 33 1/3 series, which has previously seen albums ranging from David Bowie’s ‘Low’ to The Beastie Boys’ ‘Paul’s Boutique’ critically analysed track by track, in conjunction with often revealing interviews with the original artists themselves, over an entire paperback’s length. For a start, it’s the perfect size to fit into a bag or even a jacket, the pocketbook-esque dimensions making it the perfect candidate for that long bus or train trip – especially if you’ve got the album being covered loaded in your music player for some parallel listening. With author / interviewer duties being handled by Matmos / The Soft Pink Truth’s Drew Daniel, this examination of Throbbing Gristle’s ‘Twenty Jazz Funk Greats’ is rendered all the more valuable and poignant because it contains a hefty amount of interview material with member Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson before his untimely death a few years ago. There’s a fan’s sense of familiarity with the subject material, which immediately cuts through many of the preconceptions that surround the ‘infamy’ associated with much of TG’s discography, but even Daniel himself states in the intro chapter that ‘Twenty Jazz Funk Greats’ isn’t his own favourite TG album, or even arguably, their most important one.
Still, it represents something of a crucial transition point for the occasionally impenetrable industrial figureheads – one where mutated shades of dance, funk and pop accessibility started to appear amongst the ferocious noise. There are plenty of new insights to be found here for the longtime TG fan, whether in the form of Daniel’s own recollections of the doorway into darker stuff the band opened for him as a bored kid looking for hidden horrors in suburban Ohio, the band’s own recollections of shooting the infamous Beachy Head sleeve art, or even the revelation that ‘Twenty Jazz Funk Greats’ was intended (briefly) to be about Australia at one stage or another. Particularly stripped away is any preconception that Sleazy, Genesis, Chris and Cosey were particularly calculated in their approach when recording the album. Indeed one of the most funny and revealing moments here is when Genesis is shown by Daniel that there are indeed elements of funk on the album, something that he apparently never previously noticed or intended. ‘Twenty Jazz Funk Greats’ provides an excellent companion piece to Simon Ford’s ‘Wreckers Of Civilisation’, whilst also offering up a great read on its own that’s pretty certain to leave all but the most rabid TG fan satisfied.