Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Pogo Pazz & Jop / Jackin' Pop

Kudos this year to Idolator for challenging the Voice. Until their poll results come in, acquaint yrself with the Pogo equivalent. This year's ballot, like last year's, aims to showcase those artists and records so groundbreaking, so inventive, so unfairly overlooked and ignored that they don't technically exist. Because as everyone knows, the quality of a song is inversely proportional to the number of people who know about it. And according to this law of music crit, the following releases truly are



1. Mr. Fistopheles, Bend Over Backwards
2. The Oliver Cromwells, No Irony Here
3. Lil' Tiny, Serendickity
4. The Pallbearers, It's Your Funeral
5. Socratease, Maybe I'd Rather Just Go Home After All
6. Stupider Every Year, Stupider Every Year
7. Lionel Bennett-Jones, Not Bloody Likely
8. Pamplemousse!?, A Little Death (Goes a Long Way)
9. Linzeylee Carter, Linzeylee Doesn't Pole Dance Here Anymore
10. Black Wolf, Swan Parade Mother and the Hot-Eyed Dice Chip Snakes, Critical Acclaim

1. The Oliver Cromwells, "All Our STDs"
2. Dirrtee Duchess feat. Vanity Fairy, "Emancideclapatriation"
3. Gross Domestic Product, "Eat My Economix"
4. The Near-Sighted Nepalese Stock Brokers, "Hanging In There (The Sherpa Song)"
5. Mourning Becomes Electro, "If Only We Were Actually From A Slum in Rio" (DJ Dirigible Remix)
6. Jim Henson Folk Catastrophe, "Me & Miss Piggy"
7. The Sad Sacks, "Screamotional Is A State of Mind"
8. Lil' Tiny, "In My Pants" (Radio Edit)
9. Kittens Not Cadavers, "Tell Me a Bedtime Story Without Bacon In It"
10. The Perverted Soccer Referees, "Halftime in the Equipment Shed"

I will be in Minneapolis with Pants for the next two weeks; reports may ebb. Don't forget to keep pogoing while I'm gone.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Looking in the shadows

LIVE @ PJ's (102 S. First, Ann Arbor MI)

URGH! A MUSIC WAR (96 mins, dir. Derek Burbidge)
With peformances by: Police, Wall of Voodoo, Toyah Willcox, OMD, Oingo Boingo, Echo & the Bunnymen, Jools Holland, XTC, Klaus Nomi, Go Go's, Dead Kennedys, Steel Pulse, Gary Numan, Joan Jett, Surf Punks, Au Pairs, Cramps, Devo, Alley Cast, Gang of Four, 999, Fleshtones, X, UB40

The movie is heavily male, but the female singers -- Willcox, Carlisle, Jett -- distinguish themselves by their clarity. Joan Jett screams as fiercely as anyone, but you can understand everything she's saying, whereas many of the male singers rant unintelligibly (which can be its own kind of hostile fuck-you lyricism). The viewer/listener comes away thinking that Jett and the other women -- remember, this was 1980 and 1981, long before Courtney and Alanis -- have fought too hard to be on that stage to waste the opportunity to be heard; the men, accustomed to being heard, let their words clatter and fall every which way.

Rob Gonsalves

Saturday, December 09, 2006

B-side of my heart

The week in review, pogo-style.

On Tuesday, rockism was back with a vengeance. Synthetic! the critics cried. Sampled, catchy, shallow! Illegitimate, dishonest, disingenuous! I was appalled, prepared an extensive and eloquent feminist defense of G-Stef, remembered the whole contractual enslavement of Japanese girltoys thing and shelved said defense pending further analysis.

On Wednesday I found the first Bis album and a Nina Hagen EP at Encore. They also have two copies of Chicks on Speed Will Save Us All. I left all four (Pogo treasury not what it used to be), so they're totes yrs if you beat me back to them.

On Thursday the Organ broke up, three songs into recording their second album. A noticeably pained Jenny Smyth told CBC Radio 3, "Basically, we're going to keep it all private. It's kind of a sensitive subject...and I think I'd leave it at that."

On Friday I got off work, hopped into the elevator and started singing at the top of my lungs. I do all of my best singing in elevators. But only on the condition that I'm riding alone. I had just ripped into the chorus of "Sheila Take a Bow" and was really letting loose when the doors opened on the fourth floor and a woman came in, catching me mid-bellow. This never happens--I always get to go down all five floors by myself. I immediately shut my mouth, stared at the floor and enjoyed one of the more awkward and embarrassing 20-second silences of my life.

We rode to the ground floor together and when the woman got off I finally looked up, noticing she had short dyed hair and glasses and a peacoat and a purse with a clear plastic sleeve. The sleeve had a 12" record inside with IS IT REALLY SO STRANGE? across the middle. Oh, for heaven's bloody sake, I gawped. You have got to be kidding me. I ran outside until I caught up with her and blurted, Excuse me, er, your purse, blah blah blah, kind of rare single in this country blah, where did you get it, blah blah? She smiled, said re: the purse, Oh yeah, it's nice, isn't it? My friend made it for me. It originally had Donny Osmond but I switched him out.

I agreed that this was indeed an inspired idea and let her go on her way, setting off purposefully in the opposite direction so as not to seem stalkerish.

I then tripped on a pine cone and fell on my face.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

"Foucault, Derrida, Kristeva--whateva."

Just in time for the balls-to-the-wall commercialization of [insert yr preferred religious winter holiday here], Criterion has released a fancy-pants repackaging of G.W. Pabst's 1929 silent stunner Pandora's Box. Don't be fooled by the "silent" tag; this movie practically wails a 2000s sensibility, as the creator of the video below seems to realize. I do not in any way condone the Killers or exonerate them from past crimes of wankery; still, the fact that their song syncs up so effortlessly with the spirit of the film gives an indication of just how ahead of her time Louise Brooks truly was. There are multiple opportunities for feminist reclamation--though perhaps not quite as many as in Diary of a Lost Girl. Watch! Marvel!

In fact, the only thing on YouTube that can compete in terms of inspired visual-musical synchronicity is this little wonder. It's my entire Jem concept condensed into 3-minute video form. Thanks to Tali for the original tip, and to Mairead for reminding me again later:

Also magically, gloriously and newly available on YouTube: the entireties of Aimee & Jaguar, Fucking Amal/Show Me Love (without English subtitles) and High Art, the film that does for gutsy New York photography magazine editors what Newsies did for paperboys (best line: Greta, Fassbinder's DEAD, okay?). Seriously though, it's a pre-L Word-writing Lisa Cholodenko at her sharpest and best, and the mood of this movie is so heady and meditative and palpable and thick it makes To Kill A Mockingbird look like a Warner Bros. cartoon. The strung-out-as-all-hell Shudder to Think soundtrack helps, too.

And finally, before I forget, I've just been reading Edmund White on Genet:

Whereas the narrator in Proust's novel is heterosexual and Gide published anonymously and Cocteau never fully acknowledged his authorship of Le Livre Blanc and Montherlant and Mauriac were closeted, Genet wrote novels in the 1940's in which the homosexual narrator is called "Jean Genet" - what's more startling, he's a passive homosexual (for if anyone were to admit to being gay it was naturally to strut about as a top man, whereas it's well known almost all writers are bottoms).*

Hmmm. And hmmm. And HMMM again. I like the idea that writers are people who are, erm, receptive to the world's inspirational stimuli, and that a writerly temperament harnesses that receptive spirit and uses it to create art. But what about people who like to get all Foucauldian and switch things up according to how they're feeling on a given day? Does that mean that if you're a bottom Monday through Wednesday, and a top Thursday through Saturday (Sunday being yr day off, natch), you're only a writer for half the week? What if you like to switch in medias res? And can't we apply this to the ladies as well, please? I know it's a throwaway line and purposefully glib, but there are eerie resonances at work here.

*Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review (3:1), Winter 1996

Monday, December 04, 2006

We didn't start the fire

A house on my street caught on fire this morning. My bus had to take a detour around all of the fire trucks and police cars, but the three people sitting next to me didn't seem surprised. In fact, they were strangely jolly and talkative. "I saw plumes of smoke coming out the back door of the yellow house when I got up," one woman reported gleefully. "A lot of it, and dark black, too. I won't...I won't say they deserved it." "No," agreed her friend, her eyes gleaming. "No one deserves this, not three weeks before Christmas." They sat in quiet smugness. "I won't say anyone deserves this."

Who lives in the yellow house? What did they do to so clearly (not) deserve to have their house burn down? What kind of second Sodom did they create inside, and why wasn't I invited?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Daintier! Smarter! Better-dressed!

Recommended: listening to Rasputina with earphones. Piping the sound directly into yr ears lets you pick up on all the painstaking aural details that Creager & Co. crochet into every track but that get lost when they're competing with background noise. Like the xylophone frill in "AntiqueHighHeelRedDollShoes" at 0:52, and the sound of PJ Harvey's head hitting the wall. Cabin Fever is still their best record to date, but 2004's Radical Recital doubles as live comp and career retrospective, so use it as soundtrack to yr Victorian babydoll bonnet-mending until they midwife out a new one. Creager is one of the best pop lyricists of the last ten years, and one of the least recognized; take a gander:


A primary academy, we're a secondary seminary
teaching finishing rinse, and dancing tips, and scorn.
Always concerned with plummeting virginity rates,
we lecture young girls on how babies are born.

Children, make a chain! Oh children, make a chain!

The staff here is severe, yet so altruistic
(it hurts us more than it hurts them!).
The new girls are tender, the old ones sadistic--
The late janitress was a gem.

Don't belive what the boys from next door heard--
requirements do include math.
We draw straws and put our best foot forward
down the straight and narrow path.

*No relation.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pop baptism, or, Who's afraid of Natalie Portman?

It has become terribly gauche, in this post-Garden State world, to say that a pop song saved or changed your life. Still, the fact remains: I listened to three songs this weekend (none of them for the first time), and they saved my life. I think it helped that I was in an airport for two of them. Transience has a way of making choruses stick.

Islands, "Rough Gem"
Client, "Down to the Underground"
The Smiths, "Ask"

If you listen hard enough, you can hear each of these songs--the music, not necessarily the lyrics--dripping the same holy water on yr forehead, slipping the same annunciatory whisper in yr ear: live, you silly fuck. Starting now.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Little Hans isn't so little anymore

Apparently, Freud can show up in some random-ass places:

Magnetic and optical carriers are used for analogue and digital signals while in practice mechanical carriers, in the form of cylinders or discs, have only been used for analogue signals and MO-disks solely for digital recordings. Metal matrices - negatives (fathers), positives (mothers), and stampers (sons), are used for the production of mechanical carriers as well as for CDs and DVDs.

The Safeguarding of the Audio Heritage: Ethics, Principles and Preservation Strategy

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Asking for it?

In what is still one of the best dissections of Courtney Love ever written--a coup of rhetorical economy at 200 words--Cintra Wilson reported in Salon in 1998,

She was able to sucker-punch the whole beauty myth, thrash horribly like a half-dead fish through her personal tragedy and rampant displays of public fucked-upness and still end up on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. The thing everyone is talking about now is what a tragic political disaster she has become...She didn't want to be a world-beating feminist rock symbol after all. She has surgically transmogrified into anti-woman Claudia Schiffer. Instead of a loud angry girl with ideas, Courtney turned out to be a horribly vain sociopath who venally choked enough money out of the world to transform herself into a "pretty lady."

The scariest thing about Courtney 2006 is that she makes Wilson's Courtney look like a picture of sanity and healthy living. There was the 1998 round of surgeries, yes, but since then the Love-ly one appears to have embraced the frequent customer card philosophy of plastic surgery. Why settle for one new face when you can buy five and get the sixth one free?

Even so, there's something admirable and almost-still-feminist about Love's consistency; she will not shut up, or back down, or be a lady, no matter how many judges wag their fingers and Armani sheaths get ripped. Which is why I'm glad so many critics (Joshua Clover, Danny Kelly, Lisa Levy, Ariel Levy) have adopted relatively pro-Love stances, either in general or for the release of Dirty Blonde. Overrated, desecrated, still somehow illuminated, Love clings to defensibility through sheer force of will and the survival skills of an Eagle Scout.

What has sustained the heartbeat of Love's persona, through the publicity wrecks and sugar comas, has always been her undistilled faith in the power of pop music. She's a student of pop history, and most people don't give her credit for that. She is, to use her own word, "pornorific," but she's not the junkie bimbo she pretends to be. Yet.

She made her bed, she'll lie in it:

Kurt Loder: Was punk any kind of a rebellion for you?

Love: No, because the punk thing, for me, was more my geography. I was a total Bunnymen, Psychedelic Furs, then later Smiths freak...but I lived on the West Coast, so that was my pool to pull from. The guy from Pavement came up to me and he was like, "You're so brave." I was like, "Why?" He was like, "To cover a Bunnymen song! I wouldn't have the nerve." Nobody admits that the Bunnymen were the greatest band. I like Social Distortion because they were melodic, but I like Cheap Trick better.

One time, KROQ was having their Flashback Weekend, and I was singing every word to "The Killing Moon," and Kurt was like, "Man, this music you like is so romantic." I was like, "Yeah, alright?" But I did like Flipper, we were on very common ground with Flipper. But I mean, none of that--Black Flag--it wasn't me, and I'll be the first to admit it.

Loder: Not many people will anymore.

Love: Well, that's what I think. I think you should admit the embarrassing stuff. I think the embarrassing stuff makes you more vulnerable, and it's cooler. [People say,] "Stooges, Velvet Underground: my influences. Butthole Surfers." Oh, shut up! You know every word to, like, "Pretty in Pink." Backwards.

Joe Strummer said to me [when I told him I was moving to Minneapolis to start a band], "You are the worst guitar player I have ever heard." I had only just started in earnest, and I have gotten a lot better....I'm fine, I'm fine. I am fine. I have a style. What's funny is that a lot of my songs are complete Bauhaus rip-offs. My guitar playing is totally picked up from Will Sergeant and Johnny Marr, referenced from these British bands, and nobody would have guessed that, because of the persona that's been foisted on me.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Jiving us that we were voodoo

Ellen Willis' death last week prompted me to read through some of her old criticism. Particularly noggin-expanding is her no-snarks-barred New Yorker profile of David Bowie, to wit:

Part of the problem is Bowie's material. Hunky Dory, the first of his albums to get much critical attention, has become one of my favourite records, but his more recent stuff bores me.

This seems reasonable enough, until you remember that Willis was writing in 1972, so Bowie's "recent stuff" is actually, um, Ziggy Stardust. Ziggy is many things, but it's the rare critic who can stare that record in the face and call it BORING. Her greatest praise? "Some of the songs are OK." Yikes! Then again, Willis was not one to be intimidated by rock's pretensions to subversion:

What cultural revolutionaries do not seem to grasp is that, far from being a grass-roots art form that has been taken over by businessmen, rock itself comes from the commercial exploitation of blues. It is bourgeois at its core, a mass-produced commodity, dependent on advanced technology and therefore on the money controlled by those in power. Its rebelliousness does not imply specific political content; it can be—and has been—criminal, Fascistic, and coolly individualistic as well as revolutionary. Nor is the hip life style inherently radical. It can simply be a more pleasurable way of surviving within the system, which is what the Pop sensibility has always been about...The truth is that there can’t be a revolutionary culture until there is a revolution. In the meantime, we should at least insist that the capitalists who produce rock concerts charge reasonable prices for reasonable service.

Good to remember. Although hopefully, the shows in heaven are free.

Monday, November 13, 2006

You may applaud now

Holly Hughes has tri-colored hair and a laugh that fills up a room. She sat three rows behind me and to the right and chortled loudly and jarringly, like a joyful parrot (it takes a sense of humor to fight the NEA). In his introduction to the introduction, David Halperin pointed out that she was in attendance and called her "insanely brilliant," but all I could do was stare at his head and think about how much knowledge was inside. You wouldn't remember me, I telegraphed silently in the direction of the head, but we had lunch together four years ago. We sat in a booth and ate potstickers. That summer I read the first 30 pages of Saint Foucault while kneeling on the floor of a public library and crying. There's no way you could know this, but it happened.

Someone asked during the Q&A whether At Swim, Two Boys was a gay book. O'Neill responded, "Let me put it this way. One night I put my book on a shelf next to Edna O'Brien's book and went to sleep. When I got up the next morning and looked, nothing had happened."

Sunday, November 12, 2006

So many times a day in danger

Oh, unintentionally homoerotic mainstream advertisements. You make life worth living. More choice diamonds from the pre-Yahoo dark ages:


On a related note: Lars von Trier suddenly seems slightly less problematic.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

So kind of me to be interviewed by you

I’m hung over. I’ve never eaten sushi. I don’t know how to order it. I can’t use chopsticks. I’ve never conducted an interview before. And I’ve come away without my bloody glasses.

U OF M Main Campus

O'Neill will be at the League this Monday to talk about his writing process and be characteristically awesome and inspiring. Read his 2003 profile of Cate Blanchett as a teaser--it burns new life into the tired "I'm a nervous fan!" interview framing device, in which the subject always arrives an hour late and the writer is left to sweat and wring napkins in neurotic anticipation. Hell, it just about resuscitates the entire interview genre. O'Neill comes recommended by major-league smarties, and he wrote At Swim, Two Boys over ten years while working the night shift as a porter in a London psychiatric hospital. If ever there was a hero for the struggling, disenfranchised writer, this is yr Stevie Dedalus.

I tell them about my postman. When I came to Galway, he knocked on my door.
‘O’Neill,’ says he, reading the envelope, ‘that’s not a Galway name.’
‘No,’ says I.
‘There was a good hurler named O’Neill, you’re not related?’
‘I’m not,’ I say. My boyfriend comes down the stairs.
‘That wouldn’t be your brother now,’ says the postman, peering in. And I think to myself, Right, I’m going to do you, mister.
‘This is my boyfriend,’ I say. ‘He’s French. We’ve moved to Galway on the head of a novel I’ve written. It’s about two Dublin boys who fall in love, getting mixed up in the Easter Rising.’
‘Well,’ says my postman and he shakes my hand, ‘isn’t it just what Gortachalla needs?’

(At Swim in Canada)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

You hate me, you really hate me!

Thanks this morning to the Washington Post for its stellar headline-writing skills. Other lessons from the election: (straight) Americans really hate gay people right now, but they hate Republicans even more. Personally, I see this as a missed opportunity to ban Republican marriage. Because honestly, if Republicans can get married, it makes my own marriage mean so much less.

In my new home state of Michigan, voters struck down a referendum that would have allowed the seasonal hunting of mourning doves, inclusive of "participation in mourning dove hunting by youth, the elderly and the disabled," ostensibly because nothing lifts spirits and builds communities quite like pumping animals full of lead. And to be fair, it's not like doves are symbols of anything.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The thrill of discovery

Oh, the things you can find out while not interviewing software developers. An end-of-week roll call:

-All of CSS's videos contain segments where the film runs backwards. It's a comment on the fiercely nostalgic, pereptually backwards gaze of the pop subcultural zeitgeist, surely. Or something. Observe: 1) "Alala"; 2) "Let's Make Love etc."; 3) "Off the Hook". Y'all are getting an early Bjork vibe off of Lovefoxxx too, right? Right.

-You can Hollywoodize anybody, including maverick misfit genius photographers and the virgin mums of religious prophets.

-Popular mystery writer Anne Perry is the same person as Juliet Hulme, sometime convicted teenage co-murderess whose relationship with Pauline Parker was dramatized in Peter Jackson's gonzo-fantastic and bravely sympathetic film Heavenly Creatures.

-Using the word "dukes" as a synonym for fists originates in Cockney rhyming slang: Duke = Duke of York = fork = how you hold your hand when you hold a fork, i.e., in a fist. I grew up 5,000 miles away from the East End and yet, somehow, kids at my elementary school were able to run around the playground starting fights by shouting, "put up yr dukes!" I never knew what the hell it meant at the time. Blimey.

-Linda Perry is totes Pope Leo X:

"Like the Protestants of the Reformation, indie fans continue the rebellious narrative first put forth by the punks, the paradigmatic British music performers. They present a narrative of the deviation from true musical encounters through a hypertrophic growth of institutional machinery to benefit corporate executives who exploit the faithful and debase music itself...the notion that at the heart of indie lies what many feel to be a conservative and repressive religious ideology would be distasteful to those who embrace one of the fundamental and widespread folktales of youth culture, namely, that participating in a music scene constitutes a form of rebellion rather than a recapitulation of the dominant cultural ideology and narratives."

(Wendy Fonarow writing in Empire of Dirt: The Aesthetics and Rituals of British Indie Music)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

No one's little girl

Q: What does a radical feminist librarian do?

A: She makes this. (To be fair, I also made a page for Laura Ingalls Wilder).

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween costume party: suicidal literary edition

When Virginia Woolf took the picture I had my hand up the back of Anna Karenina's dress. "Try going through this hole here," suggested Anna's girlfriend, a fairy princess ballerina wearing a tutu, rhinestone eyelashes and a tiara. We were all congregated in Anna and the ballerina's bedroom, the place where, as Anna put it, "the magic happens." Anna was standing facing the wall while we worked, patiently reading her encyclopedia of lesbian pulp novels. Virginia stood a few feet away from us and waved her digital camera excitedly, making the stones in her pockets jangle. "This one shot is awesome! You guys have to see this!"

Anna's dress was made out of brocade and it was hard to work the crochet needle through the fabric without coming close to her skin. I like to sew and I'm more or less okay at it, but until that night I hadn't had any experience stitching railroad tracks to people's clothes.


I followed the fairy ballerina out the back door of the house. It was raining and we had to pick our way carefully across the muddy lawn. When we got to the garage Anna Karenina and Virginia Woolf were clustered around a beer keg with the Crocodile Hunter and a codpiece-endowed police clown, admiring the fake blood they have just poured down the front of Anna's dress. "Honey!" exclaimed the ballerina. "You look amazing!" "Yeah," agreed Anna. "I look much more dead now."

We stayed in the garage for a long time, shivering and watching the rain and discussing the stingray attached to the Crocodile Hunter's chest. Virginia smoked hand-rolled cigarettes and looked depressed but Anna was perky and upbeat. I turned down offers of beer and thought about the only reason I ever go to parties: to remember that I don't like going to parties. Miranda July wrote something once about looking at pictures of famous people at "events" and thinking, that is where life is exciting and real--there, at that moment. But it's a time and place we can't ever get to. Real life is something that is always happening somewhere else, to other people.

When everyone had gotten cold and bloodied enough we went back into the house. I wandered into the living room and met a teddy girl in eyeliner and a beehive wearing black heels, cuffed jeans and a leather jacket.

"I wanted to be a boy, "she explained. "But I couldn't find any Converse. So I had to be a girl."
"Oh, that's too bad."
"I know, isn't it?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

When she walks, the revolution's coming

HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY to my twin soul sister Mairead. She's most recently the author of this, but do browse her greatest hits.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Pop calculus


1. Mekons' "Never Been in a Riot" = Cold Cold Hearts' "5 Signs: Scorpio"

2. The Clash's "Clash City Rockers" - Strummerly urgency = the Who's "I Can't Explain"

3. (T. Rex's "Metal Guru" - glitter) x (children's chorus + genius) = the Smiths' "Panic" (this is by no means breaking news, but listen, it's stunning)

4. DIY bedroom electro x (Them's "Gloria" - casual phallocracy) = Julie Ruin's "V.G.I." = embryonic Le Tigre

5. Spinal Tap's "Gimme Some Money" + determined tambourine wankage + severe page boy haircuts + matching mariachi outfits = The Lords' "Don't Mince Matter" = HOW CAN THIS BE REAL?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Too good to make up

October 22nd, 2:33 AM
Hi, what’s up [inaudible]…Have you seen Jody?.
I think you have the wrong number, I don’t know anyone named Jody.
You must’ve seen him. Don’t you…[inaudible]
No, I think you have the wrong number. My name is Lizzie.
Ohhh. [a pause] Do you wanna suck cock?
Ha! No. Goodnight.

Voicemail, 2:36 AM
Hey Lizzie, how are you doing? It’s me again. I don’t know why you didn’t pick up, you picked up the first time. I really liked your voice. You know, I’d really like to get to know you. You can reach me at tumari9000@hotmail.com. Please, baby, I really liked the sound of your voice. How old are you? I’m, like, 25. I’ve got a Beemer. It’s a Z3. That means it’s a convertible. So I could bang it with the top down. That’s right, bitch! Okay, so, I love you, and I miss you, and…goodnight.


Oh, friend. There's no need to pretend with me. You aren't 25, are you? Confess--you are actually a 37 year-old investment banker from East Lansing, and your Beemer Z3 is a 1997 Ford Fiesta. Furthermore, I can tell from your halting and embarrassed use of "baby," "bitch," and the idiom "bang it" that you are familiar with the complexity of these terms, and their embeddedness within the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy as problematized by bell hooks in "Sexism and Misogyny: Who Takes the Rap?" You obviously feel a need to hide your sensitive true self in order to be attractive to women. Do you think no one will love you if they know you stay at home every night knitting and reading Shulamith Firestone? I mean, Firestone is, admittedly, problematic, but you should be open about your radical feminist sympathies! This can only help you! (And while we're on the subject, how do you read "The Women's Rights Movement in the U.S." in light of emergent third wave feminisms? That first graf has some crazy resonances with our contemporary situation, right?).

What I'm saying, Tumari9000, is that you shouldn't ignore your romantic and compassionate instincts. Calling strangers in the middle of the night may not be the best strategy, but one day soon you will meet someone who appreciates your shy smile, honey whole wheat french toast recipe and stunning collection of Bea Arthur memorabilia. That someone, I'm afraid, just isn't me.

In sisterhood,
Lizzie Pogo

P.S. What do you think of the new Tanya Donnelly record? Yeah, it makes me miss Throwing Muses, too, but this is good in the meantime, wouldn't you say?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Tell me we're not better off

I went to the MSP last weekend and bought/inherited some records. Pairing Pussy Whipped and Bona Drag was revelatory and satisfying and suddenly obvious--like eating bananas and chocolate together for the first time. You can decide which one is the banana.

~OMD, Architecture and Morality
~Malaria! compilation, 1981-1984
~The A-Lines, You Can Touch
~Bikini Kill, Pussy Whipped
~Morrissey, Bona Drag
~Tender Trap, Film Molecules
~Mutant Pop compilation [PVC]
~Today's Top Girl Groups Vol. 1 [Spinout]
~The Mo-dettes, The Story So Far
~Patti Smith, Radio Ethiopia
~Les Rita Mitsouko, "C'est Comme Ca" b/w "Stupid Anyway"
~XTC, "Life Begins at the Hop" b/w "Homo Safari"

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Anatomy of a pop song - or - When Jonathan Demme thinks like a riot grrrl

Most mainstream films and music videos don't do a very good job of demystifying the artistic process. Kidman-as-Woolf, Winslet-as-Murdoch and Paltrow-as-Plath brood attractively behind their writing desks, and Hayek-as-Kahlo glowers behind her faux unibrow, but nowhere do you get a fog-free tour of the thoroughly unglamorous business that is sitting in one place for six hours and making a painting, or a poem, or a song. This is partly a matter of aesthetics (Hayek throwing tantrums is more filmable than Hayek staring at a canvas) and partly a result of a cultural tendency to mythologize and deify artists.

Jonathan Demme's 1985 video for "The Perfect Kiss," New Order's nine-minute Ian Curtis eulogy, didn't buy in. It's fiercely, radically populist simply by virtue of being so instructional--like the new wave video equivalent of the Free to Fight LP, or Bikini Kill #2. There is no mystery here, no distance between art and artist and audience, no capitulation to the myth of the inscrutable genius pop band--just fingers on keys, hands on knobs, guitar picks in mouths.

There's also something distinctly RG about Demme's agenda. "Look, boys and grrrls," his camera says. "You can do this, too. There is nothing superhuman about these people. Yes, they are New Order, but they are also just some blokes and a lady making music in a room. That's all you need--a room, an idea, and some stuff to make it with. See this riff Peter Hook's playing here? He's barely using more than one string. And this other keyboard part over here? It's just three notes. Hear that rad explosion/croaking frog sound? You can make it with some synth drums/a special setting on yr Casio. You and yr friends can all play lots of different instruments and bang on cowbells in between verses. You can do this."

Cf. this scene from Gus Van Sant's Last Days, in which Mikey Pitt as Un-Kurt Not-Cobain improvises a song. He crawls around, turning on amps; he plays some guitar parts, loops them, screams into a microphone, loops that, then plays a second guitar part and finally a drum kit. A song blooms in front of our eyes and ears, and if it's not exactly "Be My Baby" (OR "Teen Age Riot"), it's okay, because the beauty is in the transparency of the performance process, not the final product.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Monk rock

The new White Magic record is coming. It's called Dat Rosa Mel Apibus, which means The rose gives honey to the bees in Latin, and if the curiously monastic Drag City site photo is any indication, it may amplify Through the Sun Door's droney, riot-in-the-refectory dirge-jams. Mira Billotte harbors skills both vocal (Quix*o*tic) and actorly (she starred to fingernail-biting effect in Jem Cohen's 16mm anti-corporate marvel Chain) and guarantees a listen worth yr while.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

From the desk of Mr. Lizzie

Virtual post-its for yr brain.

Janine Rostron does sound like Robert Plant, but on "Think That Thought" you also get echoes of Janis Joplin and Rasputina. Rostron wields one of the most stunningly androgynous vocal presences of '06, matching Antony, Jeff Hanson, and Thom Yorke on Eraser.

Girl Monster
Chicks on Speed genius-bricoleuse Alex Murray-Leslie's 3-CD girlpunk compilation to end all compilations is set to explode stateside October 31st. The zine-style liner notes are readable online and feature amazing essays by scene vets/writers Lucy O'Brien, Jason Gross and Shirley O'Loughlin.

Moe Tucker
She revolutionized drumming by opting for mallets instead of sticks, minimizing rolls and ignoring cymbals altogether, clearing the way for punk and hard rock. So why did she have to work at Wal-Mart to support her family in the mid-90s? "Someone who walks into a record store doesn’t think of me. But if they saw that poster, they might buy the record. You might check the Stones or you might check Dylan, but you don’t check Moe Tucker."

Capitol of Punk
Allison Wolfe! Ian MacKaye! Ian Svenonius! Former Mayor Marion Barry talking about a strip club! Exploiting Google Maps to structure a documentary film about DC punk history and gentrification! "I don't even think they had an oven. Everything they cooked was in the microwave."

Warped Reality Mag
Quality music crit, mp3s, and interviews. Really great interview with the Raincoats from 1994, just after Kurt Cobain's death axed their scheduled comeback tour opening for Nirvana.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Walking 'round London town

Pogo newsflash: Lily Allen is actually rather okay! Normally I don't trust anyone with skin that looks like it was designed by IKEA, but this here, this here is positive. Watch her "LDN" video for the rad sneakers-ball gown combo, candy apple trumpet riff and the way it manages double-duty as trenchant urban commentary and hometown love letter. Watch even more for the 30-second intro, which allows Allen to get some digs in at misogynist record store culture. It's funny precisely because while men are expected to instigate "my 10-inch Japanese import is rarer than yr German 7-inch test-press" genre-dropping wank contests, women just aren't. Plus, photoshopping the original Rough Trade shop facade to say "Tough Grade" takes chutzpah. Really.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Stop making sense

Last archival Reynolds quote of the week, cross my heart (and sorry for the naked lady). I just can't resist, he's like the rock critical Gayle Rubin. Which = brilliance of a thousand shiny diamonds.

Feminine Pressure is the name of an all-female garage DJ crew. In a very real sense, UK garage is organised around the pressure of feminine desire; a key factor in the scene's emergence was when women defected en masse from the junglist dancefloor, fed up with the melody-and-vocal-devoid bombast of techstep. 2-step garage bears the same relation to jungle that lover's rock did to dub reggae: it's the feminized counterpart of a "serious" male genre [12] . Like 2-step, lover's rock was a UK-spawned hybrid of silky US soul and Jamaican rhythm that restored treble to the bass-heavy frequency spectrum [13] and replaced militant spirituality with romantic yearning.

Speak of the Reynolds, he's on next year's EMP Pop Con committee. You should totes go and show off yr Foucauldian/Butlerian/Wagnerian take on acid house/psychobilly/Glenn Gould/harmonica-core. Last year was nice, I ate some tiny pastries filled with artichoke.

The 2007 Pop Conference at Experience Music Project
April 19-22, 2007
Seattle, Washington

Music happens, then it ripples. What is the relationship between the circumstances that produce music and our swirling notions of pop's past, future, and zeitgeist? How do the times affect the notes? What factors literally and figuratively change the beat of a city? Some decry postmodern "pastiche," while others defend pop concoctions as multiculturalism in action or intoxicating aesthetics. But what are the power relationships at work when music stops time and lets us dance in place?

For this year's Pop Conference, we invite presentations on music, time, and place. This might include:

*Reading time and place into musical innovation. The breakbeat as a refunking of sonic structure and origin myth; or the social history of changing time signatures.

*The racial, class, and gender components that constitute a pop place or time's "we"; the mutating New Orleans of the hip-hop, funk, R&B, and jazz eras, for example.

*Evolving notions of musical revivalism: retro culture, questions of periodization in music, and the validity of the concept of youth culture as a sign of the times.

*Geographies of sound, or how place is incorporated sonically. Lise Waxer called Cali, Colombia, an unlikely bastion of salsa revivalism, a "city of musical memory."

*The dematerialization of the album into the celestial jukebox and other new media. Does the Chicken Noodle Soup dance live on 119 and Lex or on Youtube?

*How dichotomies of nearness/experience and farness/history affect music fanship, music writing, and music making.

*The "place" of pop now, culturally, professionally, and certainly politically.

Proposals should be sent to Eric Weisbard at EricW@emplive.org by December 15, 2006. For individual presentations, please keep proposals to roughly 250 words and attach a brief (75 word) bio. Full panel proposals and more unusual approaches are also welcome. For further guidance, contact the organizer or program committee members: Jalylah Burrell (New York University), Jon Caramanica (Vibe), Daphne Carr (series editor, Da Capo Best Music Writing), Jeff Chang (author, Can't Stop Won't Stop), Michelle Habell-Pallán (University of Washington), Josh Kun (University of Southern California) Eric Lott (University of Virginia), Ann Powers (Los Angeles Times), Simon Reynolds (author, Rip it Up and Start Again), Bob Santelli (author, The Big Book of Blues), and Judy Tsou (University of Washington). We are excited to announce that presentations from this year's conference will be considered for a future issue of The Believer.

The Pop Conference connect academics, critics, musicians, and other writers passionate about talking music. Our second anthology, Listen Again: A Momentary History of Pop Music, will be published by Duke in 2007. The conference is sponsored by the Seattle Partnership for American Popular Music (Experience Music Project, the University of Washington School of Music, and radio station KEXP 90.7 FM), through a grant from the Allen Foundation for Music. For more information, go to http://www.emplive.org/education/index.asp and click on "Pop Conference."

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Rip it up and read Backlash again

What do you get when you throw together the world's brainiest pop critic, the world's brainiest pop star and some last-ditch subcultural idealism in response to a near decade of dire Thatcherite what-the-fuckery? You get subversive male feminist dialogue in the pages of Melody Maker, that's what. From a country that produced Emmeline Pankhurst, maybe we shouldn't be surprised.

Simon Reynolds: It's still not widely appreciated that men can want to be objects, as much as agents, of desire.

Morrissey: But I think men are seen like that, actually - now. Men are aware of their sexuality in a way they previously weren't, or weren't supposed to be. I think women have become very open about their needs and desires, and this was entirely due to feminism. By women being open about sex, it made life much easier for men. And this is why feminism helps everybody, to be slightly more relaxed about life.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Old World Emily, Where Are You Now?

Mairead Case on Emily Haines' forthcoming LP, Knives Don't Have Your Back:

the packaging...is gold and perfect-bound and anatomically correct (atrium, ventricle, atrium, ventricle). i wish the lyrics themselves were equally exciting -- "maid needs a maid" fills the envelope a bit limply. sure, a man needs a maid, so does a woman, but the maid needs a union and you should make your own bed.

Knives does threaten to be a come-down for those of us still sugar-rushing on Metric circa Old World Underground and the adamantine synth-hump sparkle of "Dead Disco" and "Succexy." Back then the commentary was always as sharp as the Casio'd bass lines, whether in service to Haines' blatant politicking ("All we do is talk static split-screens/ as the homeland plans enemies") or straight-faced music crit biz-bashing ("Everything has been done/ La la la la la la la la la la la la.") Still, "Our Hell" discourages gloomy 2003 nostalgia-wallowing even as it smacks of piano-heavy Tamborello/Broken Social Scene collaboration fallout. And Haines' dagger survives mostly undulled--check out the eerie salvo of "Docor Blind," in which she opines "the lack of light/hollow sea/poison beaches/limousines/toothless dentists/cops that kill." If you listen hard enough you'll recognize the post-apocalyptic vocabulary of Old World Underground lurking underneath Knives' songwriterly slide toward maturity. The burn still beckons; the fire just doesn't spark as high.

Re: stopping - can't/won't

The hiatus was a stupid idea, so I am declaring it over. Writing in here has become like an involuntary instinct, and I can't stop doing it. Sorry to fake y'all out like that--to patch up our relationship let's all go watch this together. I think it really expresses how I feel. And besides, nothing heals like side-wipes, light sticks and giant painted fingernails.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

We were born to sin

Fuck the hiatus. This moved me, and I'm sharing it. Best politcal song and video I've come across in ages.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Annus mirabilis

On Tuesday I begin my attempt to obtain a master's degree. I expect this to be rather like trying to run through a brick wall for two years without stopping. I am going to archives/library school, but today's top programs are not the cuddly, bespectacled, snack-and-nap-time affairs you might be thinking they are, where you sit around on cushions all day debating the pros and cons of Library of Congress vs. Dewey Decimal. You see, about fifteen years ago a bunch of highly forward-thinking prats came up with the brilliant idea of combining library science with information technology, producing a scaly, grumpy half-breed discipline that is not entirely one or the other. As a result there are very few classes in my program involving actual books but lots with names like "Design in a Mosaic of Responsive Adaptive Systems" and "Drupal Configuration and Customization." At the end of the two years, however, if I can still stand up, I will be qualified to get non-corporate jobs that actually pay me a living wage and allow me not to hate my life. I will also be able to bring compassionate radical feminism to a profession whose leaders really do wield power over people's lives.

In view of all this, I am putting this blog on hiatus until further notice. Art and theory and punk rock and feminism are still the most important things in my life--I am only starting to understand how much I need them. But the best way for me to guarantee that I can make a difference in them later (making the riot grrrl archive, writing, activism, etc.) is to focus on school now. I may update sometimes when I need a break, but I probably won't.

This has been an amazing year for me (no small thanks to Carebear and Jon), but now it's over and I have to do practical engagement workshops and figure out what "informatics" means. I can't think of a better way to go out than to contribute to Mairead's Sleater-Kinney tribute in Venus. After that, I really have nowhere else to go.

Keep pogoing in the interval,

Lizzie Pogo

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Julie Ruin redux

Today's next wave riot grrrl bulletin, brought to you by Nicky Click:


Nicky Click is part of the wave of girls making music alone in their bedrooms without shame of it being "lo-fi" or not super professsional sounding but doing it cos it is so empowering to conquer computer programs and write songs from yer inner feelings. when nicky click was in school only the boys did music and she never thought she could cos she was never offered resources or empowered.

Also on the RG's not dead tip, photographer Megan Holmes has taken pictures of all your favorite bands. Plus bell hooks. I would call her the Cynthia Connolly of 00's Portland but that would be lazy--she is herself and no other. Marvel here and here.

And in closing, a big wet kiss to Deep Fried Sexy Bexx for pointing the way toward Kelis' "Bossy" as queer femme autonomy reclaimed. Maybe this could work for the boys, too?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

We have got to take cover, brother

Keep yr eyes on Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe's twinsploitation flick Brothers of the Head--with any luck it'll have blown up by September. The film's original music sounds less 1975 (as it aims to) than it does like the Libertines reunion record Pete Doherty hasn't written yet, but that's all too appropriate for a fictional band whose blokesy Brit arrogance, sweaty bangs and sly homoeroticism seem ripped from the pages of this week's NME. Harry and Luke, Pete and Carl--mike sharing all around! We need more expeditions into the quasi-incestuous terrain where musical partnerships breed and decay. Bands made up of real family members always make a bid for redundancy; what are creative soulmates if not siblings whose private intuitive universe shuts out all intruders, sometimes to the point of self-delusion and implosion?

In Brothers of the Head, Fulton and Pepe literalize this kind of suffocating intimacy by making their struggling rock star subjects actual conjoined twins. The video for "Two Way Romeo" offers a preview of the sideshow-punk swelter they seem to have conjured up...if you can survive lyrics like "Two way Romeo/ giving me a boneo/ bang bang it's alright." Yikes!

Monday, August 21, 2006

I did it again

Over the weekend I moved to Ann Arbor to go to graduate school. I miss Minneapolis terribly but I will do my damnedest to keep pogoing outside the MSP. More content TK.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Subcultural capital

The Walker's sprawling Diane Arbus retrospective closes exactly one month from today. It's really worth seeing, and Thursdays are free. The show's strength, strangely enough, isn't its exploration of Arbus the photographer but of Arbus the writer. Curators have collected what seem like hundreds of pages from her journals, date books and note pads, whereon Arbus satisfied a Plath-like compulsion to sketch out the perilous topography of her subconscious. The Walker has transformed several smaller gallery spaces into mock-up darkrooms, where sepia-tinged lights flicker overhead and Arbus's handwriting covers the walls. The effect is seductive, spectral, and more than a little bit spooky. While the exhibit stops short of psychologizing Arbus, especially her motives for suicide, its juxtaposition of the visual and the verbal does an admirable job of letting the artist speak for herself.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Yr Critique

My EMP Jem paper is in the new issue of Bitch (Fall '06, #33). The theme is Hot & Bothered but it's basically a sex issue, Bitch style, which makes it smarter and more nuanced than the average tri-yearly Mademoiselle "How to Give Great Blow Jobs!" yawner.

Not so smart and nuanced? Deborah Solomon's interview with Andi Zeisler in the NYT. Solomon's line of questioning wavers from probing to antagonistic to hostile:

Solomon: You can’t say Chloe [of the TV series 24] is a feminist. She is more of a postfeminist who instinctively takes control in a world mismanaged by men.

AZ: I don’t believe in postfeminism. The media love to trot out the idea that feminism is dead, and every so often it will be the cover story in Time or somewhere else. But feminism is as alive as ever.

S: Is it really? It seems as if its original vision of social equality has been undermined by third-wave feminists like yourself, who limit your critiques to, say, Tori Spelling’s breasts. Doesn’t the obsession with pop culture risk trivializing feminism?

AZ: I think that could be a risk. But if you are going to be working in feminist activism, you have to look at pop culture, because that’s what everyone else is looking at. Young women today have more day-to-day contact with “Desperate Housewives” than with the radical feminist writings of Germaine Greer or Shulamith Firestone.

Thoughtfully criticizing the third wave is one thing, but is anyone else having flashbacks to that 1998 Talk of the Nation condescend-a-thon? The one that Le Tigre turned into "They Want To Make A Symphony Out of the Sound of Women Swallowing Their Own Tongues"? At least Andi doesn't swallow her own tongue here--she holds her ground and holds it well.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

What the Zizek?

Okay, so the coda of that last post? About not arguing with Zizek? Screw that.

Highsmith's Ripley is in a way disconnected from the reality of flesh, disgusted at the Real of life, of its cycle of generation and corruption. Marge, Dickie's girlfriend, provides an adequate characterization of Ripley: "...He isn't normal enough to have any kind of sex life." Insofar as such coldness characterizes a certain radical lesbian stance, one is tempted to claim that, rather than being a closet gay, the paradox of Ripley is that he is a male lesbian. This disengaged coldness that persists beneath all possible shifting identities gets somehow lost in the film. The true enigma of Ripley is why he persists in this shuddering coldness, retaining a psychotic disengagement from any passionate human attachment...

I do not appreciate or comprehend the proposed connection between "coldness" and radical lesbianism. Zizek doesn't equate (radical) lesbianism with abnormality, psychosis and self-delusion--but he comes close. How do you jump so fluidly from "not normal enough to have any kind of sex life" to "radical lesbian"? How could a word that denotes a preference for a certain kind of sexual partner ever describe someone who doesn't want any sexual partners? And could we have a little more problematization of Marge's "normal," please?

A primary criticism of lesbianism and lesbian feminism has been that it ignores the biological necessity and basis of heterosexuality--i.e., human reproduction. Historically, lesbian feminists have been attacked for perverting the "reality of flesh" and its "cycle of regeneration." Disengaged from the realities and comforts of straightness (and patriarchy), they are seen as unnatural, unaffectionate, irrational shrews, confused about their true womanly purpose. Zizek clearly did not intend to support this tradition of stereotyping, but his characterization of Ripley as a self-deluding, philophobic, asexual yet still somehow lesbian ice cube does more than a little to shore it up.

This logic reminds me of Jon Pareles reporting on S-K in the New York Times yesterday, suggesting that being an "openly gay" musician writing political lyrics makes you "tediously righteous" and didactic. Forgetting for a moment that he got some people's orientations mixed up, where's the necessary connection? He uses the word "gay" but it's in the context of women, and I wonder whether he would have made a similar comment while talking about gay male musicians. Lesbians get tagged as tediously righteous (cold, perhaps?) in a way that queer men rarely do, and gay men who openly politicize their sexualities can never match the perceived didacticism of queer women. This is because queer women as a group are assumed to imitate male heterosexuality, and queer men female heterosexuality. While a man "acting like" a woman can be cute, funny, and ultimately forgettable, he has no privilege to gain, no power to wrestle. When a woman "acts like" a man it's not funny, just threatening.

Maybe that's why they only let Keira Knightley stay kind of convincingly cross-dressed for about two minutes in PC2. After that it was nice, but awfully "don't worry, she's really a girl!" hair extension city.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

High diva dudgeon

An especially lucid post at JD's SH nails down the seductive lure of bashing Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette. It's too facile, probably, but the parallels are there:

Thus we are tempted into psychologizing the auteur: the story of the poor little rich girl, born and then again delivered into an incomprehensibly-contoured world of privilege, glamour and public visibility which would offer her anything but real experience and the possibility of being taken seriously, proved finally irresistible to [Coppola], and damn the context.

Speaking of psychologizing the auteur, Tiny Mix Tapes earns 10,000 Pogo Points for even insinuating "The Beatles Broke Up Yoko Ono." Take that, misogynist Beatles historians.

Essentially, Yoko's taste for the avant-garde style of music (concept comes before function or form) was one of the major factors in John's change in musical direction. After getting involved with her and gaining inspiration from her conceptual expressions, Lennon went on to write his best music: "Julia," "Happiness is a Warm Gun," "I Want You (She's So Heavy);" even the vitriolic attack of the stellar "Cold Turkey" bears her tremendous influence. And that's just in the '60s.

As for the suggestion that the first Tom Ripley novel prefigured glam a full 17 years before Ziggy sucked up into his mind and Marc was all alone without a telephone...why not? I love the idea of Patricia Highsmith sitting down at her desk in 1970 and exclaiming, "At last, the rock 'n roll era is over! Now I can finally revisit Ripley, since he never made sense within its context of Dionysianism and appeal to the big Other!" But I don't see the need to go and and sweep all the homoeroticism under the rug like that. The line between wanting to be someone and wanting to do someone is beautifully blurred and maddeningly unfixed, and its waverings deserve scrutiny. Then again, it's hard to argue with Zizek.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Unfinished business

Can there be some kind of public announcement about how great the Au Pairs anthology is? I mean, DEAR GOD. I know this phrase should be banned for the next ten years or until it recovers its meaning, but they're like Gang of Four--only Marxist AND feminist. Which boils down to pretty much the greatest thing to happen to the universe since Poly Styrene told off bondage. The first few tracks on Playing With a Different Sex even have weird echoes of upbeat early Smiths--all the steely bass and free-floating Marr-guitar. YES.

I have to deliver between 1 and 500 words on Sleater-Kinney to Venus (via Mairead) by August 1st. Suddenly, the subject I could write about more easily and more passionately than anything else in the world is making me about as articulate as a can of Tuno. Every observation and critique I ever had of them has flown out of my head (in spite of an amazing transglobal S-K post-breakup symposium I am currently enjoying with Fangirl). To really do this justice I ought to be on some sort of sensory deprivation retreat in the Catskills. How do you write about the band whose sound is the essence of yr freedom, rapture and joy? Who are so complex and real and protean they refuse all attempts at explication and analysis?

Seriously, let me know.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Aliens in our midst

Various Artists
Queer Noises, 1961-1978: From the Closet to the Charts [Trikont]

When Jose Sarris's droll sprechstimme sidles up to a piano melody on the first track of this compilation of queer anti-hits, the time travel effect is instantaneous and intense. It's 1960 at San Francisco's Black Cat Club, police are routinely rounding up gay bar-goers on charges of "indecency" and no one has ever heard of Rufus Wainwright. The recording, which barely but tantalizingly captures audience reaction, is suffused with the rich, bittersweet flavor of the underground--with an emphasis here on the bitter over the sweet. This holds true for much of Queer Noises' first half, dominated as it is by textbook examples of the "bitch/butch" musical dyad, in which a camped-up, breathy falsetto chimes in to comment on the warblings of a hunky baritone, if not spar with a rival Mary. It's the sound of a community mired in self-loathing, but also resolved to survive, and even thrive, on its own terms. Rod McKuen's spoken word track "Eros" is close to unlistenable, if only because its description of pre-Stonewall cruising is so desperate, humiliated and squeeze-your-heart real; likewise, the satirical "I'd Rather Fight than Swish" sacrifices some of its wry humor to out-and-out hostility. But Noises is an historical document, not a pride parade, and the collection's greatest strength is its preservation of queer musical histories, however regretful or problematic, that are often obscured by larger narratives of LGBT assimilation and "progress."

Still, there's no shortage of fist-pumper anthems here, from Zebedy's torch song stunner "The Man I Love" to Harrison Kennedy's adorable "Closet Queen" and Valentino's "I Was Born This Way." On "I'm a Man," forgotten 70s legend Jobriath wields an astounding voice that is equal parts Begees and Bowie, all the better for wailing, "I will love you the way a man loves a woman" over plush harpsichord accompaniment. Elsewhere, genres range from cabaret, novelty, and music hall sing-a-long to country, disco, and punk. Dead Fingers Talk roll up the Stooges, New York Dolls, Television and Lou Reed around a gorgeously rusty weedwacker guitar and come up with "Nobody Loves You When You're Old and Gay," a slice of glam rock at its sugary finest. The inclusion of the Ramones is especially apt, since it proves both the multiplicity of queer lived experience and its reach beyond opera and musicals. Even the word "punk" itself is inextricable from queer subculture, since one of its meanings originally refered to a male prostitute, or the passive partner in sex between men.

In spite of having some of the most comprehensive and well-researched liner notes this side of a Supremes anthology, there's a big, sad hole at the center of Queer Noises, and it's lady-shaped. Of its 24 tracks, only one is performed by a woman--Polly Perkins' shocking "Coochy Coo." This seems partly a reflection of historical realities and partly an indication of the compiler's interests. The women's music movement of the 70s could certainly fill up a compilation of its own, and it's a shame to see another example of "queer" used as shorthand for "gay male." Still, Queer Noises is an astonishing journey into a not-so-distant sonic past, and a reminder of what bent pop was like before Frankie went to Hollywood.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Be Your Own Finally Punk Grates

Feminism has taught me to distrust wave metaphors. They have a tendency to elide entire groups and eras from the historical record, suggesting that, for example, all American feminists between the years 1921 and 1965 were just sitting around cleaning their ovens and playing peanuckle, biding their time until Betty Friedan. Still, the cadre of riotous woman-powered bands breaking this summer is looking awfully watery crest-shaped, if stopping short of bidding for riot grrrl's second wave. A sampling:

Hometown: Brisbane, Australia
Newly-released album: Gravity Won't Get You High [Dew Process]
Charismatic frontwoman: Patience Hodgson
Championed by: SXSW
Sounds like: Velocity Girl, Elastica, the Dishes, Fever to Tell-era Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Listen to: "InsideOutside," "Lies Are Much More Fun"

Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee
Newly-released album: s/t [Ecstatic Peace/Universal]
Charismatic frontwoman: Jemina Pearl
Championed by: Thurston Moore
Sounds like: Machine-era YYYs, Bikini Kill, Slant 6
Listen to: "Bicycle Bicycle You Are My Bicycle," "Girls On TV"

Hometown: Austin, Texas
Newly-released album: s/t, 7" [self-released/Kill Rock Stars]
Charismatic frontwoman: rotates, grrrl-style
Championed by: Brace Payne
Sounds like: Numbers, Erase Errata, Spider and the Webs
Listen to: "Negative Creep" (Nirvana cover)

Disclaimer: post scooped by both Interrobang?! and City Pages.

Friday, June 30, 2006

S-er F-er

Spider Fighter are playing the Entry tonight round about 8:00, $6. When they played the Triple Rock a few months ago it bordered on historic. Come say hi--I'll be the tiniest pink stripe-haired lady in the room.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A sound they don't want you to own

The news broke for me today at 2:28 PM, in text message form--the musical equivalent of "yr beloved childhood friend/relative/golden retriever Sunshine passed away":


I practically ran out of work, took a deep breath and began making the necessary phone calls. I called Anjanette about 8 times, even though I knew that her phone was broken and she couldn't pick it up.

It's very hard to verbalize what this band has meant to me, how deeply they have influenced my appreciation of music and music history. Seeing them play has made me proud to be a woman, a feminist, queer, and alive, but most of all, it has reminded me that there are others out there for whom music is not just a status symbol or fashion accessory or excuse to get drunk on a Tuesday night. Watching them jump and scream and hammer at axes and drum kits it was always beautifully, vividly apparent that to them, music was a matter of life and hope and breath, not haircuts and scenester posturing.

Rob Mitchum once described Sleater-Kinney as "obliterat[ing] the gender card," and that is exactly what they did. After a certain point in their development, they refused to talk about how being women influenced their musicianship--refused, that is, to be seen as anything other than a band, full stop. And strangely, that turned out to be as feminist an accomplishment as anything they wrangled circa Call the Doctor and s/t. Because while we absolutely, urgently need people like Le Tigre talking explicitly about feminism and insisting that their experiences as (marginalized, queer, abused, objectified) women inform their lives and music, we also need bands exploding the girl ghetto and proving that there is nothing inherently male about rock virtuosity and prowess. We need Janet schooling Bonham. We need Corin unfurling R. Plant soul-howls. We need Carrie windmilling and leaping off monitors and pouring out 1/16 notes with eyes-closed fury and abandon and release, making roomfuls of 30-year-old crit boys ask, "Pete Townshend was who again?" Because when that happens, the still-solid glacier of misogynist rock tradition melts just a little, and gets that much more reappropriable for those of us who were never going to be yr mama or smile pretty, take take the money.

now do you hear that sound
as the model breaks?
take the stage

let the image of him fade away
go back and tear the pictures from the page
it's time for a new rock n' roll age
history will have to find a different face

and if you're ready for more
I just might be what you're looking for

Sleater-Kinney were what we were looking for. After August 11th, we'll have to find it somewhere else.

Lady Mairead delivers a fine eulogy here.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Elephants go oral

Someone would be like, "I scored a Farfisa at the J&J Thrift Center for $40!" So it would be like, "Of Montreal wants a Farfisa on this song. Call Laura." Will Hart scored a guitar organ, so of course there's a little wave where everyone's album has a guitar organ on it. And then I got the zanzithaphone. It's really a Casio digital horn, but I was not about to have my credit on the Neutral Milk album be for Casio digital horn, so I called it the zanzithaphone. It was very much about who found what instrument when, and how long before that instrument broke.

An oral history of Elephant 6.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Blank degeneration

One of many apparitions in Tony Kushner's Angels in America, an 18th century dandy paying visit to a sickly descendent, observes with bemused dismay having arrived in 1985 New York, "The twentieth century! Oh dear. The world has gotten so terribly, terribly old."

Like most ghosts who show up in plays, he knows what he's talking about. The world has become disturbingly antique--it's just that parts of it have a trick about seeming more decayed than others. The United States (if only in stodgy, post-colonialist nation-state terms) is still hardly more than a toddler, wobbling down the transglobal sidewalk on chubby legs and dropping its pacifier in the mud. Compared to a more mature Western country like, say, England, it's got about as much historical depth and baggage as last week's episode of "Wife Swap." The difference is a rich English heritage but also a punishing debt, legacy, and accretion of guilt; that is to say, the weight of a collective national onus more than a thousand years in the making. Imagine what living in the U.S. might be like if it'd been suffering fools and faking wars since 876 rather than 1776.

When Queen Elizabeth I travels into the future to discover her kingdom's destiny in Derek Jarman's Jubilee, she finds an apocalyptic post-Britain driven mad by its terrible oldness. Gangs of girl-Londoners go on public rampages of torture and murder, heaps of rubbish burn seemingly nonstop, and political power has all but yielded to a creepy, bald media impresario called Borgia Ginz. Ginz is perhaps meant to recall the ruthless Italian Renaissance family and mobster collective of his first name, and Jack Birkett, with his bugged-out eyes, maniacal giggle and meth addict's leer, plays Ginz as a kind of queeny, arachnid Cesare Borgia fully prepared to enjoy the benefits of his self-made autocracy. He is orbited by a duo of mute lady supermodel-types (rather unconvincing given the way he ogles Adam Ant) as well as the terrorist gang whose bickerings and crime sprees make up much of the film. Leader Bod (Jenny Runacre), sadist Mad (Toyah Willcox), nympho Crabs (Nell Campbell) and cynical historian Amyl Nitrate (Jordan) share a dingy bunker of an apartment and go on group trips to the corner chip shop to kill the cook.

In the end, Jubilee narrowly misses being a radical feminist film. Its leading female characters seem driven by a righteous, primal rage, as if the accumulating centuries of gender inequality have finally taken their toll and inspired the women of England to take to the streets. Mad ridicules Crabs for sleeping with men, spitting, "Sex is for geriatrics!" and carves the word LOVE into Bod's back with a knife. Viv, a peripheral member of the gang, is having a giddy three-way with two brothers (Angel and Sphinx, who are also happily doing it with each other), and everybody is a prickly, beauty-fucking, androgynous mess. It's a shame, then, that the majority of the gang's victims are women, and not just biological ones. Wayne County has a few seconds of prancy karaoke screentime before Mad and the girls arrive to push her about, shove her to the ground and throttle her to death. Mad's satisfaction in the murder appears to arise from something akin to transphobia, and the scene mimics too many other on-screen tranny-killings in which the perverted she-man is left splayed on the floor, wig torn off, and exposed for the fraud she really is.

Similarly, Angel and Sphinx's deaths at the hands of the police, though granted an emotional gravitas and tragedy rare in the rest of the film, are instigated by Angel's blithe come-on to an approaching officer, "Give us a kiss!" Jubilee has (bizarrely) drawn criticism from some for being politically conservative, and this is the only place in which such a reading holds water; by presenting sexual freedom side by side with corruption, looting and murder as an effect of a crumbling society, the film implies that queerness might not have a place in the reformed utopia for which it longs.

Running through Jubilee like a Manic Panic'd neon pink stripe is the first-wave punk aesthetic that insiders like Vivienne Westwood feared the film would exploit. She needn't have worried; the fashion and music on display bristle with authenticity, and Jarman gets it right. Adam and the Ants turn in a scalding performance of "Plastic Surgery" (note the pointed anti-exploitation, anti-music biz commentary that follows the song) and a decidedly un-skinny Amyl sexes up "Rule Britannia" with snap garters and grrrl snark that foreshadow Corinne Burns in Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains. Like Corinne's, Amyl's trashy rent girl stage persona is an escape ladder out of her oppression rather than an effect of it, even as the flat tone of her "sexy" posturing suggests a behind-the-scenes male puppetmaster, controlling her movements, options, and body-as-commodity.

Jarman's interest in gender and British social history informs a Warholian understanding of the pop star as artificial, irresistible,and a little bit toxic. Ginz's pet musicians (engineered with Malcolm McLaren-like cunning) have lost control of their careers before those careers even begin, giving themselves up to an increasingly deranged popular culture in which art is dead but Top of the Pops is always on. "The world is no longer interested in heroes," Mad tells us. "We now know too much about them." And what are pop stars, if not heroes who've been interviewed in Vanity Fair one too many times? As Jubilee concludes in a last gasp of violence and grief, it becomes painfully obvious that its plea for compassion and realness originates not in a parallel universe, but our own.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Nach David Bowie, die Sintflut

Many Pogo reviews and critiques TK--first, From the Closet to the Charts: Queer Noises, 1961-1978, distro'd by Light in the Attic Recs. Yes, it is a compilation, and yes, the first 20 tracks are sounding stellar to our eager ears; we just need a little more time for digestion and tracks 21-24. All I'll say for now is it's stunning, it's disturbing, and it's what Morrissey listens to on minibreak (surely!).

Second: Jubilee, found today by Anjanette at the library. Take note, Minneapolitans! Yr newly renovated main library offers, gratis, The Color Purple, Mansfield Park, Prick Up Your Ears, Rip It Up and Start Again, the NME, and films wherein "bands of teenage girl punks roam the streets." There is a shockingly uncondescending teen section with copies of Mellon Collie next to stereos and centrally displayed Alex Sanchez novels where you might expect Hanson and Meg Cabot. That is tax money well spent, kittens. We lugged our spoils back from downtown in my bag like so many gold dubloons.

Finally: tomorrow night I may be at this. Will you? I know a lady who knows a lady who plays the elevator operator.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Punks on film

Derek Jarman's Jubilee: now in serious competition around Pogo HQ with Fanmail for Most Dreamily Wished-For Yet Almost Unfindable Obscure Indie Film. Queer activist and film pioneer Jarman ruled the (British!) post-punk music video scene, producing clips for Orange Juice, the Smiths, Marianne Faithfull, and the Pet Shop Boys as well as controversial meditations on icons like St. Sebastian, Edward II, Caravaggio and Wittgenstein before his death from AIDS in 1994. Smartie actress Tilda Swinton, who worked with Jarman on Caravaggio, has an amazingly poignant, witty, dishy and in-depth tribute here.

1978's Jubilee was scored by Brian Eno and promises a stunning who's who of first-wave punk faces and haircuts, including those of W/Jayne County, the Slits, and an outrageously young 'n femmey Adam Ant. And seriously, somebody should retroactively subtitle it "A Punk Fantasia on National Themes" (with apologies to Tony Kushner):

Jubilee doesn't bemoan the rise of a punk counterculture as indicative of England's failures. In the film, what goes wrong is not punk, but England. Here the subculture is posited as a reaction to a social and political environment of diminishing returns. Jubilee depicts a post-apocalyptic England, rife with class warfare and directly reflective of the deep recession and state-imposed three-day workweeks of the year of Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee. Working class London literally burns while the rich idle away at country estates. Global ruler and media mogul Borgia Ginz (Jack Birkett) has turned Buckingham Palace into a huge recording studio, and Westminster Abbey into a gay go-go boy nightclub. Borgia recognizes his own power and influence when he asserts, "If the music's loud enough, we won't hear the world falling apart."

-Todd Ramlow, PopMatters

Thursday, June 01, 2006

W! ASH! ING!/ TON, baby.

After I take her grocery shopping we go back to her house for tea. She dives through bulging cabinets for saffron, but retrieves only a moldy glass jar with some seeds in it labeled "1997."

"Hibiscus pods!" she grins. "I stole them from the British consulate."
"Yes! I was downtown at the embassy. I stood up against the gate, leaned over into the garden and brushed them into my jar. Nobody saw me."
"Well, they were going to be wasted, falling onto the ground like that."

She brews the tea and I put gingerbread cookies on a plate. I ask if we're going to sit in the dining room or the kitchen and she clucks, "Oh no, we'll sit in the dining room, like white people." I shudder, because 1) this is gruesome, and 2) I am not sure how best to call out an 89-year-old woman on her racism. It is only partially comforting later when we discuss her daughter, the one in the civil air patrol. She flies helicopters over D.C., in part to protect the White House, but Dodo wonders whether it wouldn't be better if hostile aircraft were encouraged to attack Mr. Bush. "How did that man ever get in there?" she spews.


Later I walk to the ice cream store where all the punk kids used to work and find out that it's closing. They worked at the hardware store down the block, too, where they got to sell hammers to Ian MacKaye and brag about it the next day in school. The hardware store is now a less-than-Irish Irish pub, and the ice cream store, stage for adolescent dating dramas and underage shows alike, is soon to play its last mix tape over the stereo. It was no Olympia (the boys carried the amps while the girls reapplied lip gloss and there was way too much Weezer on those mix tapes) but it was ours, and it gave more than one punk I knew money enough for vinyl and guitar strings and a little independence. Where is the next generation of self-pitying, alienated fuck-ups and closet cases going to gather to discover London Calling and stare at their high-top Converse? The Pottery Barn?

Soon, that'll be all that's left.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

We hear swooping guitars

Pitchfork lets me play Lois Lane. Those lucky devils in Seattle and PDX are in for some fun shows, methinks.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Homo hoe-down and calendar

May has shaped up to be the queerest month of recent memory, rippling with so many excellent and subversive new film, musical and literary offerings I'm starting to think the revolution homo-style really is going down in earnest (further evidence: I persuaded a 20-something dude at my bookstore to buy Mrs. Dalloway even after he asked nervously, "Isn't this a girly book?" I also pushed Funeral Rites but he left it sitting on the shelf--can't imagine why). Here's a recap of what's been rumbling in the underground this month, with a preview of queerities to come:


Just when you thought they couldn't get any smarter, Matmos returns with a brainy concept record so queerly radical on the one hand and experimental, ambitious and ethereal on the other it makes Pansy Division sound like the 700 Club and the Books like Lawrence Welk. The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast (title snagged from Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations) is the soul of punk distilled, frozen into cubes and traced against yr fevered brow. There's no gabba-gabba-hey guitar slap, drum snarl or feedback to speak of, but this is punk for the new millennium--decentered, denatured, reimagined, kindred to its '77 self only via lust for the unexplored and a proud refusal to steal an arm or an earlobe from the overpicked corpses of records past. Every track is a tribute to a beloved queer icon, inclusive of the obscure, the cultish, the vaguely-known and the fist-eatingly unheard of (hence "Steam and Sequins for Larry Levan," "Snails and Lasers for Patricia Highsmith").


"If I weren't gay, or she weren't a woman, I might consider attempting to ensnare her in the ugly web of a monogamous relationship."

Joey Comeau's flawed debut novel of queer guerrilla terrorism reads like just that--a flawed debut novel--but draws its confused, vengeful protagonist with adamantine sympathy and realism. Our hero may break into people's homes and punch innocent teenage girls in shopping malls, but he's profoundly conflicted about it. He also can't figure out for the life of him why, if gender is a construction, and monogamy unnatural, so many people find themselves stubbornly attracted to the brains and bodies of either men or women. You can read the first seven chapters here for free, but even better than Lockpick are A Softer World, Comeau's collaborative online art and writing project, and his fake cover letters asking potential employers for jobs.


Still soldiering on after Lynn Breedlove's 4/15 appearance and the penultimate Tracy + the Plastics show, Homocore has organized a hip-hop night for May 28th (7th Street Entry, 21+) with seven different artists from around the country. Don't hate on homohop. It's like the line dance they somehow never got around to teaching you in yr elementary school physical education class.


Minneapolis' own Flaming Film Festival begins this Thursday, May 25th. Skip the treacly hetero liberal-baiting of "All Aboard! Rosie's Family Cruise" but stay for "Is it Really So Strange?", William E. Jones' 2004 doc on Hispanic and Latino Morrissey fans. They're pairing it up with Jem Cohen's Elliott Smith short, and then afterwards local music-types are gonna do live Moz/Smiths/Smith covers. I dare you to go and not sigh expressively. Monday the 29th is the Music Video Showcase, and since the entire festival is hosted by Kill Rock Stars they'll be showing classic and newer vids from E. Smith as well as the SSION, Deerhoof, Sleater-Kinney, Hella and Xiu Xiu.

[Last-minute addenda: Carrie Brownstein in the NYT! Augusten Burroughs in Mpls! Hold him hostage in an elevator with yr loquacity & love--or at least qualms about the film version of Running With Scissors.]