21 May 2012


Live at Tufnell Park Dome, 5 May 2012
Co-Opted By Cunts, Affirmative Action, Sex Offender Boyfriend, Estuary English, Co-Opted By Cunts (Reprise).

CONSUMER ELECTRONICS certainly was not one lacking stage energy. "We are Consumer Electronics and you are bunch of fucking CUNTS!" and so starts the set of fierce electronic sound created by DiFranco, Mundy, Best and some girl.
Attending the last night of the Broken Flag weekender felt a little like gatecrashing a party in its last death throes. By all accounts the previous two nights had, for the most part, divided opinion with Consumer Electronics getting more mentions than most with a typical performance during which the audience were called a bunch of cunts. For some it was the highlight of the weekend so far and encapsulated BF perfectly; a blunt instrument to the face, whilst others thought it was nothing more than juvenile crowd baiting performed by an overweight man drooling onto his tits.
CONSUMER ELECTRONICS - A four piece with Gary, Sarah and Frank on synths and feedback making the set live while the grand master did his wonderful nipple-tweaking, drooling, scrapbook-licking thing repeatedly bellowing 'Sex Offender Boyfriend'.
Consumer Electronics is a theatrical show. It's sometimes hard to say if it's really a "noise show", but rather a sleazy and demented theatre of lowest urges. Nipple twisting, lip licking, appreciation of male physique, licking scrapbooks of little girls, energy filled vocal performance of well written obscenities. I heard someone criticize CE isn't really "angry", he just pretends to be so. I wonder was this meant to be "angry"? I have my doubts. To me it seemed more of intensity, sleaziness and abusiveness. Not about someone being angry.
As for the seriousness or otherwise of CE performance, it's pretty much simultaneously serious and comedy in my opinion, just like The Fall - and Philip is the perverted Mark E Smith.
consumer electronics - an impressive wall of sound but it sounded a bit too digital for me.


One thing I forgot to mention, I was very glad to hear it has moved further from "time-stretch" Whitehouse type elements. Now CE is much more back to being real band, than something people may associate as "whitehouse spin-off".  Sex Offender Boyfriend!!! -CONSUMER ELECTRONICS : more throbbing Ramleh-synth-walls, & with Best entertaining the crowd. certainly not a Whitehouse-version. indeed not angry, but sleazy.
If I am allowed to spread scurrilous gossip here, and hey, why change the habit of a lifetime: I know just how drunk members of CE got late on the Saturday.
Another contender for my favourite of the weekend. If this set did not intentionally have a little humour in it then I guess it failed but if it did it was truly excellent.
Phil Best was brilliant…every movement - pure entertainment…a slow striptease, nipple rubs, fist pumps and arms outstretched like the messiah while ranting aggressively about being an offenders boyfriend or something.
Unbelievably Bestie wasn’t the focal point for the duration of the performance…my eyes were drawn equally between him and the “some “ girl, who I found out via some e-stalking to be Sarah Froelich. The interplay between the two was fantastic and added to the atmosphere of sleaze.

Whitehouse’s Phillip Best was a key player in the Broken Flag story, as a member of Male Rape Group and Ramleh and as leader of his own project, Consumer Electronics, who headlined on Saturday and who, like Con-Dom, embodied the spirit of shock noise. This was the mosh-pit moment of the weekend, with Best (very much a noise celebrity) striding around with his shirt open, kicking over beer and spitting water as he screamed typically obscene lyrics (though, to be honest, all I could hear was the word “fuck” – it could have been “I fucking love everyone in the world”, in fairness, though I doubt it) and rubbed his body, tongue protruding. Meanwhile, his girlfriend Sarah Freilich and Gary Mundy produced screaming, overloaded machine noise and Anthony diFranco pummeled his bass guitar, the whole lot building into an ear-bashing wall of angry noise. Sure, the theatrics, which even involved holding up pictures of what appeared to be murder victims, were beyond camp, but like his erstwhile Whitehouse colleague William Bennett, Best somehow manages to balance his silliness with an intense aura of acute menace and fierce intelligence; and the music was simply overpowering. The only thing that prevented the set from being a true reincarnation of the mid-eighties Power Electronics scene at its height was the fact that this audience was full of adoration for the people onstage, rather than being on the brink of a riot.
Joined onstage by Mundy, DiFranco and Sarah Froelich, Best wastes no time in calling the audience ‘a bunch of cunts’ before lurching into a stream of invective that is swiftly all but eviscerated by the remorseless racket surrounding him. This now middle-aged, bald man strips off, shoves his hand down his leather trousers, licks pictures of adolescent girls that he tears from a handy magazine and generally acts like everyone’s worst nightmare of a drunk uncle. ‘What the fuck is that all about then?’ he repeatedly screams while jabbing his finger at the crowd, resembling an irate newsagent furiously scanning a particularly lurid Daily Mail headline. It’s at points like these, or those moments when Best simply takes the mic away from his mouth and yowls the lyrics unamplified into the gale of noise, that Consumer Electronics achieve transcendence.
Consumer Electronics was probably only band who can make art about drinking on stage. With all the water spilling, gargling and erection simulating bottles, it's integral part of sets visuals / action. Not lack of it.
It's great, funny and sleazy showmanship, just like when Lou Reed simulated shooting up onstage in the 1970s. Of course he got lots of practise in Whitehouse who became increasingly theatrical towards the end. Not every live performer can have the stagecraft of a Lady Gaga or Axl Rose, but especially when you are on a stage the size of the BF Festival rather than playing in a squat or basement it really does help to have some ideas towards performance skills.

The second set was by Consumer Electronics (Philip Best of Whitehouse's solo project, although he played with a full band). Anyone who's ever listened to anything Best has ever done will know the drill lyrically - stuff about rape, subjication of women yada yada yada. But it takes on a whole new dimension live. He's a bald, topless, overwight man in his late-40s wearing leather trousers and sunglasses. He has this homemade scrap book with, amongst other things, pictures of young pre-pubescent girls. He flicks through the book while the maelstrom of noise continues behind him, until he finds pictures of his 'favourite' girls. He then licks and kisses the picture 'sensuously', rubs it over his genitals, touches himself and so on. Written down here, or listened to on record, it all seems so extreme as to be silly, but when you see it live there's an un-nerving sense that he's not entirely joking (even if, similarly, he's not being entirely serious). Not that it makes much difference, but this guy has a PhD, so he's not an idiot - he knows what he's doing.

The problem I have with Phillip Best is

how do you know its not real? How do you know its all an act and its all part of being on stage?
The things he does on stage, if done in front of other people who didn't know about him or his act, would probably have him reported and investigated for child pornography and pedophilia. So in that way its all contextual and that time and place and people going to a Phillip Best show know what he's like....does that make it okay though? No, it doesn't. Does that mean you're condoning it? Sort of. It more means that you're turning a blind eye to some guy rubbing a picture of a pre-pubescent girl on his cock. If you saw that anywhere else, or at any time, you would be freaked out and would report him to someone, whether you were into this noise shit or not.
I just don't see why its acceptable there and not acceptable anywhere else with anyone else. He could be arrested for looking at child porn at home and whats he gonna say 'oh i was just doing some research for my stage show' yeah right!
Now, I love these artists, have put money directly into their pockets, and will continue to do so in the future. I definitely don't 'condone' or live out any of the themes raised in their music in real life (for lack of a better term), but I am, it seems, happy to contribute to others who espouse these things. My girlfriend questioned whether I was morally comfortable with this and, having thought about it, I am. We often pay artists to explore extreme ideas in other artistic fields, so why not music? Indeed, through the likes of the Arts Council and the Tate Modern, this kind of work is at times even paid for by the Government.

There's a fine line.

I'll happily listen to something like N.W.A.'s Efil4zaggin which for me still stands as a benchmark for depraved gangster rap (even though it's clearly a 'joke' at the same time)...
But if I paid good money to see Dr Dre, and he came on stage in leathers, rubbing pictures of pre-pubescent girls on his genitals I'd get the fuck out of there.
these people aren't artists. They're musicians. Most of the time I think they're going for the shock tactic especially with the racism stuff but it kind of gets overlooked. I haven't been to any of these shows and i'm not sure how I will react. All I know is that Phillip Best approached me at the show, I would run a mile. I don't want him spitting on my face or anything.

Also is it morally wrong to throw various objects at Philip Best?

You could argue that that's the fault of those not inquiring further. I'm not saying I necessarily do, as if I saw a guy pulling that sort of shit in the street, for instance, I would remain pretty passive if someone punched him out.
But there's the difficulty - is the onus on the artist to make it clear what he's up to, or for the crowd watching to investigate further.
And if he's not making any comment on his work outside of his performances, are the crowds who enjoy it rationalising because the alternative is the knowledge is that they're watching a pedo-championing singer and giving him their hard-earned cash to sustain that lifestyle, and that's just too difficult to process?
Is the onus on the artist? Well that's what we're discussing. Obviously he wouldn't want to taint his act by putting a warning as its just about the shock tactic with these people.
I don't think these people are too bothered about the hard earned cash. They're just trying to get up to some notoriety and be remembered for being shocking. The people who pay to see these in an artistic form are just dicks that think this is art when its not. It seems to me that its a guys way of expressing something without actually having to express it. I'll be really interested to read any articles with him about what he thinks of his act.
When you watch a TV programme/film, you approach it knowing 100% that it's not real. What makes the stuff mentioned more controversial, and for me at least, more exciting, is that there is a sense that they might actually mean it. You're never quite sure as the line between 'acting' and reality is (deliberately) blurred, but that's the difference between Chris Morris and Philip Best. Chris Morris doesn't really dare blur the line.
I don't want to watch someone rubbing their cock on a photo at all, but if you don't think there is a difference between doing that and actually molesting a child then we are back to having arrest actors.

About the pictures of young pre-pubescent girls...

The ones that get a cock on 'em...
I assume they're just normal innocuous images that 'get sexualised' (for want if a better phrase) by the act of slapping a cock on 'em?
If so, what is the crime, and who is the victim?
Public decency issues, maybe? But, as far as I can tell, no actual paedophilic (is that a/the right word) activities have occured to the detriment of any children. Aside from the possibility of any secondary effects arising from that child being alive and ending up connected to and/or being in any way affected by the, um, 'performance'. What if the photo is of a long since dead child (Victorian, say, who no direct harm could come to) - is that any different? What if the child isn't even real, and it's a generic stick drawing - is that given the all clear? Is a photorealistic drawing worse than a stick figure drawing? Or is it the fact that there's a man's cock in close proximity to the image the defining problem? If so, what about drawings of children in sexual poses? No real man's cock, no real children, just some rather unsettling images of no-one in particular. What about photorealistic non-sexual images of nekid children presented in a non-sexual way, but someone faps over it in private?

They're collages of daily mail etc for the most part from what i've seen

Yeah, from what I could see none of the images were sexual in themselves

(as in, none of the girls were nude). His scrapbook did also have pictures of older women in too I think.

i'm not quiet sure what is exciting about seeing someone who MIGHT be a peodophile

If you are driven to watch uncomfortable things then why not go the whole hog and just join a pedophile ring.
I don't really understand what the thrill is - and I don't really understand where the controversy is either. These events are so underground as to not permeate any aspect of mainstream society, there's no controversy as no one except the converted is in anyway subjected to this stuff.
I'm not sure where the artistic merit is really, I haven't seen these shows, but from the description they don't sound like they add anything intelligent to the issues of sexuality, they just sound overly offensive for the sake of it, but not really challenging in anyway.

And agreed re: his own take on his performances. Although I'd be willing to bet he'd happily be more inflammatory in any comments on his work to push that further. The 'art' is the unease created that comes from never saying whether or not it's a joke.
And with the money, I more meant that as an audience member I'm going to assume that the guy I'm paying to see at a gig isn't actually a pedophile, because it's easier on my conscience. Whether he is or isn't it's easier to believe 'isn't'. See also: Michael Jackson, Pete Townshend. Although perhaps they're darker for not being upfront?

Also, my favourite anecdote form the Consumer Electronics show wass when a girl in the front row spat in Philip Best's face,

and without hesitation he spat right back at her and started screaming over and over "WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?! YOU THINK YOU'RE THE MAIN CUNT?! YOU THINK YOU'RE THE MAIN CUUUUUUUNNNNTTTT?!!!!!!"
Is it me, or is Mr Best more like Mr Cartman these days? BEEFCAKE!!!!