1. Gets waaaay too much attention for being the first industrial record.
2. The lo-fi recording of the entire album isn’t a deliberately chosen aesthetic so much as it they couldn’t afford anything else, really.
3. It’s tremendously hard to finish the record cover-to-cover, not because this is scary as its reputation would have you believe (there’s only one track that’s actually scary), but rather because a lot of it is useless sludge.
4. The good news is that this is an easy album to review because there’s so little going on in the actual music; they haven’t figured out how to do anything yet. I’m convinced you can hear ambient tracks of equivalent quality from any art student with the tools and the know-how that comprises most of The Second Annual Report.
5. When the band does settle on a cool sound (the Harleys revving up on “Slut Bait – Live at Southampton”; the madman ramblings on “Maggot Death – Live at Red Club”), they just repeat it over the course of the track, and no matter how short said track is, it still feels too long.
6. As its name implies, this isn’t an album, but rather a report, compiling a bunch of live tracks found elsewhere (which is why you see three incarnations of “Slug Bait” and four of “Maggot Death” on the tracklist. Don’t fret, they’re the same in name only). I suppose something like “Maggot Death – Brighton” is kind of cool if you want to get the feel of what a Throbbing Gristle concert was like; audience cheers, P-Orridge yells at them, calling them “Fucktards” over and over, drums (that are probably provided by another band, seeing as how none of these cats play drums). (Yawn) So what else is new?
6. But their tenure as COUM Transmissions and their postmodern whatever’s of sexhibitions and used tampons preserved in glass and their subsequent praise that they were “wreckers of civilization” has taught them one thing: shock value works. Well, sometimes, at least.
Both the ICA and Brighton versions of “Slug Bait” are worth listening because that’s exactly what they have going for it. “Slug Bait – Live at Brighton” slams together two recordings, the first of a Canadian teenager being interrogated for murdering a child and the second, a relic of the Cold War entitled The Complacent Americans. But despite the fact that I think the second recording is a bit useless (if you’re going to draw on Cold War stuff, as least do something with it), notice how the first recording cuts off at the right moment; nothing more needs to be said really, “To have sex was the original motive, and I was trying to find someone older, but, uh—.“
The ICA version of “Slug Bait” is solid stuff through-and-through, and despite being the first of many campfire horror stories (see “Hamburger Lady” and “Persuasion” to come), it’s their best. There’s literally no way I could articulate this better than Drew Daniel from Pitchfork already has, so I’ll leave it to him (important stuff has been unitalicized for emphasis): ”Talking about killing people isn’t necessarily interesting (hello, Foster the People), but when I hear Genesis P-Orridge describe a businesslike psychopath butchering a family (“I cut his balls off with my knife (KNIFE); I make him eat them right there in front of his pregnant wife (WIFE)”), I still blink and twitch a little. The creeping dread “Slug Bait” achieves lies not in the lyrical body count but in the hiccupping repetition of trigger words as Gen’s vocal longjumps from a casual speaking voice to a garbled shriek, and in the deliberate misfit between the vocal’s desperation and the detuned pastoral synths smeared underneath.”
Basically, keep “Slug Bait,” ditch the rest, and go straight to D.o.A. The Third and Final Report or 20 Jazz Funk Greats.