ULTRA-BAROQUE IS THE NEW BEAUTIFUL Psychic TV at The Casbah
Keith Boyd 8.31.07
"Painful but Fabulous" is the title of counter-culture hero Genesis Breyer P-Orridge's autobiographical art book and guess what? It's true. All the weird stuff you've heard is a pale and pasty monster compared to the brutal, yet ultimately lovely, truth of it all. Last night was a return to some real adult entertainment at The Casbah. Not only were the visuals challenging and beautiful. Not only was the music in top flight, psychedelic freak out mode but yes, our main man Genesis has just about completed his transformation into a Pandrogenous being.
Okay, while it may not speak to the heart of why this show was so excellent the simple fact remains that Genesis's appearance is both remarkable and challenging. This should come as no surprise though. Go back through his(her) history and you'll be confronted with just about any prurient, taboo image or subject you can imagine. From his earliest days as a performance artist in the Coum Transmissions on through the audio-wreckage of Throbbing Gristle and then the various incarnations of both Psychic TV and Thee Majesty, Genesis and company have been stretching the elastic boundaries of both reality and acceptability well beyond the snapping point. So what's with this new breach in the walls of control? Is it simply the last ditch kink of man who, through the years, has seen it all? Given the intelligence, sensitivity and pure physical sacrifice, I hardly think so. Sure, there might indeed be some elements of Genesis's transformation that are erotically or aesthetically self-serving but I have a gut feeling that tells me this isn't where the story ends. I feel that it's only fair to take him at his word and view this as yet one more attempt to prove that even in the face of our overwhelming and corrosive political and social scene it is still possible to assert autonomy over one's mind and body. I also feel that Genesis is trying to present himself as a living, breathing symbol of yet one more possible way forward for humanity. Does this mean that every man should go out and get breast implants and reconstructive surgery aimed towards appearing more feminine? No! I don't think that that sort of mindless emulation is the lesson here at all. What I think Genesis is up to is furthering his art and challenging expectations. He's deliberately embodying the union of opposites so highly prized by most esoteric religious movements in the world. He's messing with your preconceived notions of what a man is supposed to look like. He's confronting you with something so outré and compelling that at the very least you come away with a thrill. To me that stands out as a major accomplishment itself.
So now having discussed the most obviously "different" element of PTV I suppose it's time to get to the heart of the matter and that was the show. This is not the Psychic TV of old. Gone are the Acid House beats and Technicolor look of old. These days PTV is more of a band than ever before. They actually play songs and these songs have a fairly recognizable structure. They tend towards psychedelic 60's sounding with healthy doses of elements from the sonic palette of bands such as The Velvet Underground or even a bit of Hawkwind. Most tracks do feature a good and heavy pounding rhythm that even got the usually stoic Casbah crowd moving. I think this turn towards at least some structural elements in their music is a good thing. It allows the powerful messages to really reach out and hit you. The set was mainly comprised of tracks from their new album but did feature a few dips into the old song book. Most notable to me was the excellent, "Unclean" which got a creepy and insane lullaby treatment. The new songs were all nicely done as well and the new-found directness in the lyrics (especially on the anti-war track "Higher and Higher") was refreshingly pointed and powerful. Visually stunning, sonically engaging and intellectually challenging. Not a bad night's work for a few hours in a Rock and Roll club. I'll take this over the top and wild invite to freedom. I'll boldly claim it here: ULTRA-BAROQUE IS THE NEW BEAUTIFUL!