Having been a fan of Throbbing Gristle to the point of evangelism, I knew Psychic TV would be even more amazing before I'd even heard a note, or at least a clang. I listened to Force the Hand of Chance over and over once it finally appeared, gritting my teeth and insisting that it was a work of unparalleled genius, as I would clearly begin to appreciate after sufficient exposure. Then out came the second album, which was better, but which in being better, obliged me to face up to the fact of Force the Hand of Chance having been a massive disappointment; and the more Porridge explained his own genius to the media, the more I began to feel a little as though I'd been diddled, until I eventually sold those first two albums and dedicated what little disposable income I had to purchase of music which didn't require quite such a massive suspension of disbelief.
Then my friend Thomas Hamilton came to stay for a couple of days, and he happened to have this record with him.
'I've given up on them,' I explained, 'because they're shit.'
Nevertheless, we stuck the discs on my record player, one after the other because there were two of them; and against all expectation, it sounded pretty good. In fact it sounded more like I'd hoped they would sound before Force the Hand of Chance pissed on my dreams. Three decades later, finally bothering to bag myself a copy, it's quite nice to discover that my memory hasn't been playing tricks.
I've generally tended to the view that Porridge is only ever as interesting as who he's stood next to at the time, whether it be Alex Ferguson, Fred Giannelli, Dave Ball, or the rest of Throbbing Gristle; because otherwise we're just left with his own ideas, such as they are, and a bunch of people stood around saying yes, Genesis, that's really great, or at least that's how it sounds to me - although the theory works better if you try not to think about the bloody awful records he's made despite the involvement of those named above, or others who should have known better. This time he was backed by John Gosling, Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, and various members of KUKL, the Icelandic band from which the Sugarcubes were eventually born. It sounds like a live performance, mostly improvised, and of all Psychic TV I've heard, comes closest to the live ambience of Throbbing Gristle - which is a bonus because those live tapes constituted their best material, in my view. Being Psychic TV, the emphasis is on rituals and drones and spooky rather than electronic. There are bells and clangs and tapes and sounds amounting to something resembling a more ponderous Hawkwind, or maybe some obscure krautrock group; and Porridge sounds sufficiently unpredictable and scary enough to remind us why we ever liked him in the first place, those of us who actually did. It's a shame he couldn't keep it up, but two or three decent albums out of the hundred or so which have earned Porridge that prestigious listing in the Guinness Book of Records is still better than all of them having been duds; so yay - go Porridge, you old ledge!
Next week I shall be ruminating on the creative brilliance of Jeff Lynne's Electric Light Orchestra.