Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Hear what I say, girl

"You can’t upend the patriarchy while emulating the Who."

So writes Anthony Miccio, last seen defending the Ying Yang Twins' ode to pussy-beating, a.k.a. Wait (the Whisper Song), in the Village Voice and instigating a firestorm of 'cross-the-Net back-handing and spittle-launching. This is hella old news, so I'll step away from that rather intimidating hypocrisy sandwich and ask instead: why no Who? At first, it make sense. B/c, y'know, dedicating yrself to the imitation of cock rock's finest sons doesn't do much to restructure/dismantle the musical-industrial complex.

Or does it? When we assume this we overlook all the really faboo and radical things that can be done when female musicians cover canonical dino-core--namely, taking something that originally shut us up and out and diffusing its power to keep doing so by making it ours. I'm thinking Patti Smith exploding Van Morrison, Julie Ruin tweaking Foreigner, Nomy Lamm doing AC/DC, the Spells getting all up ons--wait for it--the Who. "Gloria" affirms queer ladyfan punklets like nobody's business, and it can do it b/c Smith so explicitly co-opts (emulates, anyone?) the specter of the predatory rock god/groupie-inhaler. In the world of that song, patriarchy isn't just upended, it's dead; women are the stars, the fans, the seducers and the seduced, and dammit if men seem to be around much at all.

So cross-gender covers rule the school--we knew that already. What about when a band just imitates a geezerly, boy-exclusive genre or style, which seems to get more to the point of Miccio's whole Who-emulation problem? And here I think we really gots to remind ourselves of the best-case scenario, the thing we're working for in the first place: an environment where women are encouraged to follow their creative instincts and make the music they love. If Susie Q. thinks Gina Birch is the shit and wants to start a Raincoats tribute band in her mom's garage, then she should totes go for it. But if Susie Z. gets off on hair metal--or emo or hip-hop or power pop or zydeco--then so should she. One thing guaranteed to upend patriarchy is women doing what they want, and if that involves guitar windmilling and some Quadrophenia remakes, then so fucking be it.

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