Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Just another clip about women in rock (huh!)

Mairead scooped me on this one, but in addition to the "Typical Girls" video, You Tube also has an amazing excerpt from a German documentary about women in rock, featuring lots of Slits performance footage and Viv Albertine being incisive and awesome. Visibly exasperated by the never-ending "How does being women affect yr music?" and "What is it like to be a woman musician?" line of questioning, Viv finally gongs the nail on the head: "We are fucking women making music, that's all there is to say about it."

The filmmakers are obviously big supporters of female musicians, but the sum total of the interview clips is sad and a half--sad because the Slits shouldn't have had to talk about this in 1979, and I definitely shouldn't have to write about it now, 27 years later. While the inherent ability of men to make music has never been considered worthy of scrutiny, the imperative to explain female musicianship is deathless. It is explored and questioned, defended and denied as if it were Einstein's theory of special relativity or Heisenberg's uncertainty principle rather than the simple physical act of a woman playing an instrument. Why is this something that necessitates study? We're people, not particles traveling at the speed of light in a vacuum.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

I don't live here, I'm from Fanville

It is an odd thing to suddenly find yrself on the performing side of the audience-musician divide when it is not yr native province. It's weird over there. There's too much empty space, and that mike stand in front of my nose just cries out to be jostled, and why are all of these people staring at me so terribly, terribly squarely? If their bangs weren't covering half their faces then maybe I could tell whether everyone was having an okay time or not, but as it is I am too mired in show-fright, so I keep my eyes on the ground and study shoes--boots and Converse, mostly, with rusty buckle and duct tape accents. High-Top Purple Cons seems to be enjoying herself, stomping a bit, but Knee-High Mukluks looks bored, and Ratty Sneakers clearly wishes he had stayed at home. After bumping the mike stand for the seventh time I hang my head and intensify an already strong-ass respect for the people who do this every night, who endure the sound checks and staring to make the art they believe in.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


"Some people are born with the certainty that they own sound or volume; that the lexicon of rock music is theirs to borrow from, to employ, to interpret. For them, it might be nothing to move around a stage, to swagger, to sing in front of people, to pick up a guitar, to make records. I set out from a place where I never assumed that those were acceptable choices or that I could ever be anything but an accessory to rock'n'roll. Coming out of a tradition that historically didn't allow women much of a voice, then finding myself helping to create a sound that filled an entire room, that reached into every person in that room, that is a power I had to learn. I needed to try it on before I could call it mine. I had to find a means to make it my own."

-Carrie Brownstein, "More Rock, Less Talk," from This Is Pop: In Search of the Elusive at Experience Music Project.

Monday, January 23, 2006

I can even sort of play guitar

Jessica Delfino's White Box Session over at The Brink is six flavors of genius, including the kind with the caramel center. Yes, it's a throwaway joke song, but it taps into a very real, very powerful and very American anxiety about anonymity. What proof of worth and success does a post-Warhol, reality show-saturated culture demand other than celebrity? If you are a halfway intelligent person with any kind of talent whatsoever, this culture assures us, you are a failure if you are not famous.

P.S. Dancing With Myself does not advocate the pre-meditated killing of people, animals or kiwi fruits--famous or otherwise.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Pogo music showcase!

Something old

The Gymslips
Rockin with the Renees + the Silly Egg EP (Abstract)

In 1983 NME called them "hilarious cartoon deadbeat sleaze," but when Paula Richards sings, "We're the Renees, here we come/ 1-2-3 and up yer bum!" she means it. The Gymslips were like the British Tuscadero, or Gina Birch's little sisters, or the Go-Gos before their record deal, sugar bath and makeover. IRS never let Belinda Carlisle sneer, "Get drunk! Get smashed! Get pissed! Get fat!" and, "Some boys just don't understand/ that some girls do it pretty good," meaning, um, doing it. This is Oi! at its playful, non-fascist best, exploring advice columns, plastic surgery, Barbara Cartland's mansion and the comforts of pie 'n mash ("it's working class!").

Something new

The Tuna Helpers - I'll Have What She's Having (Mimicry)

Tori? Siouxsie? Throwing Muses? Coming up with sound-a-likes for the Tuna Helpers is like watching the State of the Union address; you could do it, but what would be the point? Besides, they really don't sound like anyone else. The Helpers are the awesomely-named Australian sisters Adrienne and Bethany Sneed and drummer Khattie Quinones. They will be touring the Western part of the US this month behind I'll Have What She's Having, leaving a trail of stripey stockings, dolls parts and stuffed rabbits in their wake. Break open yr glass unicorn bank for show money and catch them if you can.

Something borrowed (from Jon)

Magazine - Real Life (Caroline)

The sound of first wave UK punk in transition. Howard Devoto stayed in the Buzzcocks just long enough to co-write "Orgasm Addict" and the Spiral Scratch EP before starting the slightly artier and poppier Magazine, which spat in the eyes of genre-mongers by being resolutely punk, post-punk and new wave at the same time. "The Light Pours Out of Me" thunders and shimmers and spews lightning bolts, prophesying the imminent rise of a band whose name has become increasingly difficult to drop without sounding like a tool (starts with "Joy," ends with "Division"). "My Tulpa" is the best queer S&M anthem you've never heard: "You can touch yourself anytime/ I am so wretched--you are so fetching/ Stop smiling at me--treat me unpleasantly." For real.

Something blue

Vincent Delerm - s/t (tot Ou tard)

Delerm's enunciation is so slow and crystalline you can use it to teach yrself French! Or at least, learn how to sound real, real suave and whisper things like, "J'espere qu'y aura des elephants," which I think basically means, "I hope that it will have elephants." Don't we all? Most tracks are hushed and stately and wistful--so much so that even when the piano kicks up-tempo they keep a patina of sadness to them, as if recorded inside an empty cabaret where all of the bar stools are knocked over and the counter is sticky with spilled wine. But his newer CD has a song on it called "Veruca Salt et Frank Black." !

Quote of the year

"I do practice homosexuality. If you read the AFA website you’ll find that out. Although actually, I think I’ve gotten quite good at it. I wouldn’t say I was practicing anymore."

-Jack Kenny

Monday, January 16, 2006

Let them eat transparent marketing gimmicks


Sofia Coppola has been hard at work since bringing us the racism-lite of Lost in Translation--a brave, unflinching film about Scarlett Johansson in her panties and the inherent weirdness of Japanese people. This month, hemorrhaging attention and currency, Coppola is finally wrapping her years-in-the-making pet biopic project on Marie Antoinette. In her panic to appear relevant, Coppola has not only swept the Stupid-Ass Casting Awards ‘06 by signing up cousin Jason Schwartzman for King Louis XVI, she's made the most laughable, incomprehensible, quaaludes-induced teaser of recent memory. It's one thing to try to modernize shit up. But grafting New Order's "Age of Consent" onto standard Merchant-Ivory period piece footage isn't subversive, it's awkward and lazy and tossed-off, as if Coppola got wasted with her trailers editor one night and slurred in passing, "Lesss make it rilly new wave, knamean?" Furthermore, when I hear "Age of Consent" I do not want to think of Kirsten Dunst pouting and running around in wigs and panniers.

Maybe Sof thought that casting Marianne Faithfull as Queenie Marie's mom got her a free pass on whoring out the genius band of her choice, to say nothing of stealing the film's title font off the cover of Never Mind the Bollocks. In any case, I can't wait to see how the final soundtrack turns out. X-Ray Spex for the coronation, perhaps, and Gang of Four for the sex scenes?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Orphans of the storm

The bookstore of heaven was even more fluffy clouds 'n cherubs than usual yesterday. This time I think I actually heard a couple of trumpet fanfares & harp glissandos. I was in the back doing mailorders, conserving tape and reusing packaging cardboard like the faithful employee that I am, when I heard some nervous rustling on yonder side of the saloon-type doors. I look up and there is Don Who Works In The Front, he of the icy frown and blinkless stare that sizes up mainstreamish customers and implicitly snarks, "Wouldn't you really be happier at a Barnes & Noble?" Dude is formidable, spectral--like Dick Cheney or a funnel cloud on the horizon. But he's standing there, and I'm meeting his gaze with knocking knees, enjoying my last few moments of life before the evisceration that is sure to come, when all that comes out of his mouth is, "Hey, do you have any music videos?" I am like, "Guhwha?" And in return he confides, "Because I have all of these Siouxsie & the Banshees videos, and I could copy them for you."

So this dude and I, this scary, inscrutable Cheney tornado et moi, we have an intense fanfession for a good half an hour in the back of the store. We talk Circle Jerks and Nina Hagen, the Velvets and Veruca Salt, the Turf Club and Hammersmith Palais and stalking Puffy AmiYumi in alleys. I am ready for Johnny Thunders, but when he hand grenades Tracy + the Plastics I am blindsided, gaping fish-mouthed as he explains, "I'm so bored with boy bands, all I really listen to now are girls." I knew this place was punk rock; I just didn't know it was running a distro from my heart.

Donna Gaines knows what's going on here, this joy of stumbling across a subcultural sibling in yr midst. We are a family, a tribe of misfits and shut-ins united only by the strange creed that music is the answer. When she speaks in a preacher's tones of fandom as religion, that is no metaphor she is swinging, but the stained glass window truth.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Weaponry Listens to Rip-offs

I liked Art Brut a lot more when they were called Huggy Bear. Compare, contrast, imagine them artificially birthed, Sex Pistols-style, in a top secret A&R meeting circa March 2005, with a couple of 2nd gen. Malcolm McLarens as midwives:

McLaren #1: So who're we going to steal a sound from, then? I'm thinking somebody early 90s, cheeky, sexy, simply dripping with credibility.

McLaren #2: How about Pulp?

M1: No no no, too posh...think cruder.

M2: Bis?

M1: Too obscure.

M2: Heavenly?

M1: Too twee.

M2: Huggy Bear?

M1: Yes! Brilliant! That's exactly it! Only we'll have to siphon out all of the politics and feminism and queer business, kids don't go in for that sort of thing nowadays. And stuff up the empty bits with some musical trend to make it more now, d'you know what I'm saying?

M2: Sprechstimme is going to be terribly hot this year. Look at Bloc Party and the new Hold Steady promos. We could have the lead singer prattle and yell declaratively quite a bit--I'm thinking, "I'VE SEEN HER NAKED," I'm thinking, "THIS IS NOT IRONY."

M1: I love it, I love it. And maybe do some confusing meta-satire about the art world, like those Franz Ferdinand lads.

M2: Why not name the whole group something arty? Like...Bauhaus? Oh wait, that's taken...er, how about Dada? Fauvism? Rococo? Art Brut?

M1: Art Brut, yes, that's perfect! Nigel, I'm giving us both a raise.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Hi-hat heat

KRS drops the Gossip single "Standing in the Way of Control" from their LP to be released 1/24. It's been nudged away from the raucous, down-tuned, discolicious early version they toured with more than a year ago, but dammit if any other band can beckon this kind of rich sound from a single guitar, drum kit & voice (I guess it helps when the voice in question belongs to a vocal genius & human hurricane). Listen for Nathan's guitar line to go all Carrie Brownstein 3/4 of the way through--liquid downstroke eighth notes & slides, like guava nectar for yr parched throat.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Threshold of revelation

I am not well. That thing, called functioning--I can't remember how to do it. When you find yrself listening to LCD Soundsystem at 11:07 in the morning and staring at a box of Kleenex, something is wrong. When you have a dream about reading a press release for a book that does not exist on the queer subculture of 18th century English taverns, and you are not Eve K. Sedgwick, something is royally ass-wonked. But once upon a time last week, when I was in DC, I went to some shows. They were awesome. Like, Princess Seraphina awesome. They are also closing soon, so if you are Metro-side, partake.

Mark Seliger @ Govinda
Go for Cindy Sherman, a be-Hedwig'ed J.C. Mitchell and D. Bowie looking immortal (though not in the same shot) rather than naked supermodels. Bowie has a giant spider pin on his lapel and that unmistakable, "Fie, I left my gloves at the molly house" brooding gaze. Govinda is pretty much all music-related photography all the time, and the dude at the door is totes friendly, so it's a safe bet all year 'round.

PostSecret @ Old Staples
The largest to-date showcase of Frank Warren's project, which invites people to write down their true, unconfessed secrets on 4" by 6" postcards and mail them to his Germantown, MD address. The old Staples building has cards hung up in plastic sleeves on fishing line, tacked to walls, and dangling in bunches from the ceiling. The result is like a revelatory, somber and very crowded wake, with everybody trying their best not to cry.