Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Best Music of 2007

Third annual Pogo wrap-up. As usual, good luck trying to find these.


1. Uncool White Kids, "Scrabble Night at Winston's House (Is Every Night)"
2. D.O.A. Noisenetwork, "Nike Pays My Stone Massage Bills"
3. Kay-T Tigresse feat. Baby Cheetuh, "So Sexy/So Endangered"
4. Mamie Beergarden, "Not Before You Fill This Bathtub With Courvoisier"
5. Four Pretty 21-Year-Old Boys, "Guaranteed NME Cover Story"
6. Panda Snake Wolf Cub, "Me! Your Mom! Pumpkin Pie Filling!"
7. Schopenhauer Power Hour, "Metaphysical Graffiti"
8. The Celibate Hot Topic Sales Clerks, "Waiting for Pete Wentz"
9. Sheist, "1 2 3, Corporate Synergy"
10. Lil' Woozy, "No, Seriously, I've Just Hit My Head and Need to Have a Lie-Down"


1. Underrated Dining Utensil, Spork Spork Spork Spork Spork
About Winnipeg, Trembling Cactus, Are You My Employer?
3. Mamie Beergarden, Back to Whatever Color It Was I Started With, As Long As It Wasn't, Like, Magenta or Something
4. Funksultan Swish and the Scandalous Seven, They Said it Couldn't Be Yodeled (reissue)
5. Strip Mall Inferno, Pastel Torah
6. Stereonoggin, Take This Album. Really, Just Take It.
7. Nina Hagen's Sister's Dirty Laundry, Too Obscurely Essential For You to Have Noticed When It Came Out the First Time, You Twat (reissue)
8. Scooby Don't, Gangstamina
9. D.O.A. Noisenetwork, Weight of Platinum (In My Bank Account)
10. El Emeno Pea, Cue R.S.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The flower, not the high school massacre

The new ThunderAnt short features long-distance songwriting, Carrie Brownstein riding a motorcycle and a last-act cameo by Mr. and Mrs. Corin Tucker. Lance Bangs has superb taste in Electrelane t-shirts, and throwaway joke songs written by Carrie Brownstein are still better than 95% of songs written by people in utter seriousness. And you thought it couldn't get any better than affectionate satires of feminist bookstore culture. Chuh!

Funny though this is, Emily's Sassy Lime actually recorded a lot of their music this way. For real (wait for 0:29).

Monday, December 10, 2007

Celebrity skinned

What's this? A picture of Courtney Love looking like...herself? Which is to say, before the plastic surgery binges, failed haute couture makeovers and spastic Osbournes cameos? It's like she's bought her original face back and returned to her vaguely punk rock but still awards show-ready style template of the mid-90s. Rub some lipstick on her chin and break one of those heels and she's as close to her gloriously trashy, unapologetic, Pretty on the Inside feminist self as we're ever likely to see her again.

There is a disconnect between who I am, and how I live, and how I am perceived. I used to play up to it a bit when I was on drugs because who cares: sex, drugs, rock'n'roll, waaaah! I always seem to come number two to Keith Richards in lists of greatest hell-raisers of all time. But if I was a guy, I wouldn't even be on the list! I didn't know it was such a guy's job. It's like playing football in high heels and lipstick; no wonder it smears.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Chocolat chaud

If there were a lifetime achievement award for sexually ambiguous popular song titles, after going to Morrissey it would go straight (so to speak) to Hot Chocolate, based on the strength of their singles alone. In fact, some of these could be working titles rejected by Mozza for being not quite ambiguous enough.

You Could Have Been A Lady
You'll Always Be A Friend
Disco Queen
Heaven Is In The Back Seat Of My Cadillac
Man To Man
Put Your Love In Me
Are You Getting Enough Of What Makes You Happy
What Kinda Boy You Looking For (Girl)
I Gave You My Heart (Didn't I)
Never Pretend

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Panic! at the Aviary

If you happen to have given up following all the new bands with names involving wolves, snakes and kids and decided to just focus on birds, then I've written the story for you. It's nice to see somebody forging new avian territory; doves, quails, owls and swans are all well spoken for.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

My Big Muff can beat up your Big Muff

Squinting in the glare of this week's music spotlight: the most powerful aural time warp since that day you heard "Please Don't Go Girl" in the express check-out line at Costco. Or at least Mil Mascaras. It's like returning to the mid-80s via time machine, only without all of that perestroika/Maggie Thatcher/rioting-at-North-London-Polytechnic unpleasantness.

Pants: Let's play a game called, What Year Was This Recorded?

Me: I like this game. It sounds, obviously, like 1984. Or, to give myself a margin for error, 1983-1987. It sounds a lot like the Jesus & Mary Chain to me. BUT! But. I am thinking there is a trick involved here, and that it was in fact recorded recently. I hope that's true. Am I right?

Pants: It's by A Place to Bury Strangers and it came out in 2007. Their MySpace page has the song that Radio K has been playing a lot lately, "To Fix the Gash in Your Head," and other songs. I like them because I like JAMC. The lead guy in that band makes his own guitar pedals.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Camera Lucida

My dear old pen pal and ace photographer Megan Holmes has a photo blog.

She is doing especially lovely work in color now. I like this snapshot of a YACHT/Thermals show in Portland best (click here for a closer view!) because it looks like a high school field trip. The posh girl in the front row has mistaken field trip day for class picture day, but has decided not to be embarrassed about it, because she really, really likes YACHT. Or is holding hands with the girl next to her. The girl with the red hair is trying to figure out how she is going to finish her science project and read all of The Scarlet Letter over the weekend. The boy with the thumb in his pocket, at this precise moment in time, has decided he wants to be in a band. The boy in the Gumbi shirt is trying to create a force field between his palms, and the kid raising his hand in the back just wants to know if it's time for lunch yet.

Megan has also been known to do miraculous things with portraits of Beth Ditto. Keep an eye out.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sacred and Profane

Do you believe in his sweet sensation?
Do you believe in a second chance?

Do you believe in rapture, babe?

This juxtaposition flashed into my mind during Thomas Sokolowski's Andy Warhol: Camouflage Man lecture the other day. Sokolowski is director of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and when he put up the still from the Warhol film it was like seeing Bernini's St. Theresa peeking out from behind Bookwalter's eyes.

For religious man, his life was sanctified because it corresponded to paradigms established by the gods in the time of origins. Eliade suggests that in the very distant past, absolutely every aspect of life, even the most basic bodily function, had a religious significance. He sees this reflected in the case of an Australian people called the Karadjeri, whose mythology provided them with a paradigm on the position to take up for urinating.

Clearly, this immersion of life in sacred values is total contrast with the experience of non-religious man, whose life has become desacralised.

As well as acquiring religious value from divine paradigms, particular aspects of the life of religious man could also take on a sacramental value. Thus in Indian tantrism, sexual union became a religious ritual.

-"Understanding the Sacred"

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Critical mass

Leave it to Todd Haynes to get America to admit that drag is hot.

Cate Blanchett is Bob Dylan: Could there be a sexier above-the-title tagline?...Before, I thought of Cate Blanchett as a beautiful and gifted actress. After this crush-inducing performance, I'm seriously considering flying to Australia to stalk her.

And, mightiest of all, is Cate Blanchett's Jude Quinn, a quivering, neurotic, sexually alluring elfin presence, a changeling, a bundle of receptors half-open to the world and half-guarded from it...Her way of walking is a jittery amble; onstage, her movements have the precision, the meticulous grace, of a Balinese shadow puppet.

Rolling Stone
She burns through Haynes' head-trip odyssey like an illuminating torch. Blanchett's soon-to-be-legendary performance is not a stunt, it's some kind of miracle. Playing the skinny, androgynous Dylan in his electric years — when his hair stood on end to match his fried nerves — Blanchett extends the possibilities of acting. You won't see a better example of interpretive art this year by man or woman.


And then Cate Blanchett arrives. To call her work here magnificent is too undeserving an understatement. She is regal, almost unrecognizable...Blanchett is so callous and cool we can feel the vibe resonating off the screen.

And that's just a rivulet of the tidal wave of praise she's getting.

When was the last time America was this in love with an actress in drag? Hilary Swank in Boys Don't Cry does not count; that was a P.C. head-pat and a whispered, "How brave!" This is different. This is a sweaty, lustful, heart-doodling critical swoon. Jude Quinn has been declared hot. And that's remarkable, given both the seriousness of the gender bluff involved (Madonna in a vest he is not) and Jude's distance from conventional, pretty boy-girliness.

Women impersonating men on film are usually seen as more unsettling than crush-worthy because they point back to their real-life counterparts, who show us that male privilege isn't non-negotiable and that our gendered division of power is unstable. But Haynes has made his medicine so sweet and so tasty we never realize it's actually a big spoonful of queer theory. "I'm the only one with any balls," Jude says, and we never doubt him for a second, even with Haynes winking at us through the subtext. We just rush to join the fan club.

The Philly City Paper got it right when it said that "Jude's defense of the politics of personal transformation echoes Haynes' own journey from ACT UP activist to engaged auteur, one who realizes that queering the canon can be as powerful as shouting slogans." Haynes is queering the Dylan canon; he's just doing it with such a light touch that nobody else has said it in so many words yet. It seems to me he's also suggested what Jonathan Weinberg said about Duane Michals back in 1996:

Things are queer, not only because the world cannot be known, and all representations are fallible, but because of the transforming process of art itself. In Michals's beautiful photographs, queerness becomes an ideal; the circularity of the series suggests that the image is inexhaustible and unknowable. But in the end, art's pleasures, its humor and mystery, do help us know the world in all its queerness.

As in Michals's photo series, so in I'm Not There. All representations are fallible--so why not pile them on? Why not six Dylans instead of one? You can't exhaust or understand the man, so why not choose a film style (collage) that exaggerates his circularity, his multiplicity and his unknowability, rather than disguises them?

I was really more after the strangeness of what he had become as a man at that moment. How he was androgynous, but not in the way David Bowie would be androgynous a few years later, in the early '70s. It was almost more the way Patti Smith was androgynous. He was just this otherworldly creature. This otherness had crept into him completely by that point... On a purely superficial level, I just wanted a woman's body to occupy that place, so that this strangeness could come back.

-Haynes, Salon interview

Friday, November 23, 2007

Gobble gobble

Thanksgiving! A time of rest and reflection. Of rosemary trees and cinnamon brooms. Of being condescendingly quizzed by your relatives on sports current events they are well aware you have no interest in, or knowledge about. I have been trying to come up with the reverse equivalent of this, and I've decided it would be if I were to go around saying, "Wow, Uncle Budward, you sure must be excited about the My Bloody Valentine reunion! And how about that farewell ESG show?!" Or even better, "Gee whiz, Uncie Kegger, I'll bet you've been up all night contemplating Butler's notion of performativity as it applies to the problematics of third wave feminist individualism!" After being told my tofurkey looked like a giant burnt potato and ordered to explain what I plan to be doing with my life in ten years, I felt an urge to slip away and quietly reassert my identity, perhaps by bathing, Scrooge McDuck-style, in a swimming pool filled with gay porn and Au Pairs records.

In lieu of said pool, I recommend the following:

Monday, November 19, 2007

Side street walkers

So Dolly Mixture. Do you know them? Maybe they're your favorite band and you have the Fireside EP framed and hanging above your bed. Maybe you were there, James Murphy-style, at the Marquee in 1982, at the Clarendon Hammersmith in 1984. If you weren't, consider making some space in that file folder of your brain (the one with the Lisa Frank unicorn stickers on it) marked "Favorite Music." I have some live tracks and random rarities via one D. Wolk, but you can listen to many of them here. The live "Everything and More" isn't quite as sigh-into-yr-teacup perfect as the original, but until that magical day when you find The Demonstration Tapes glittering underneath a pile of mite-infested Foreigner eight tracks at the Salvation Army, it may have to do.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Photo by Kathryn Yu

Electrelane announced their break-up/indefinite breather today. It makes sense in a sad, unfortunate way. No Shouts, No Calls was their The Woods, and their Aeroplane Over the Sea and their Loveless: a giddy but taxing career high; creative breakthrough and subsequent exhaustion; a point of no return. Where do you go after "In Berlin"? "Between the Wolf and the Dog?" "Five?" By way of memorial, explore this trove of live tracks from 2004...their cover of "More Than This" is heart-stopping. Rippling piano scales, massive Mia Clarke guitar, hushed vocal breakdown--Roxy Music Electrelanized. Covers should all be so lucky. And so should we.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Siren Nation

Even with an 250 extra words, there were a few things I couldn't squeeze into my Siren Nation story. First: a disclaimer that it's unrelated to the Village Voice's Siren Music Festival. No weird cross-continental collabo happening there. Second: a ton of sadly unused quotes that I feel deserve some kind of visibility, especially since I had such rich conversations with the people involved. So here's a small sample. If you happen to be in PDX this weekend and can spare the money, consider getting a pass, it should be a rad event.

Natalia Kay:

"I remember seeing Bikini Kill and Team Dresch when I was in college. I had never, ever, ever been to a punk rock show that was an all-girl band. And I had never seen an audience that was 95% punk rock girls. That was totally inspiring and empowering to me, to feel like I owned the space. I think that the reason why women's music festivals do really well is because the art that women are putting out there really speaks to a lot of women, and some men, who don't see that perspective being reflected—their own experiences being reflected—on stage, and being sung about by somebody and in any other way expressed artistically."

December Carson:

"It allows us to give back to the people of Portland, and to offer an opportunity for people to have active participation in the festival. We want it to be more two-way, to have the community be gaining more than just entertainment. I want it to be more than an entertaining festival. I want people to feel how culturally rich Portland is, and to walk away with that sense of, wow, there are these women who can do unbelievable things, whether it's directing a film, or fronting a band, or being a visual artist. So this will always be a component for us: to showcase the multiple talents these women have."

"I am a woman working in the music business, and I know from personal experience that women are not treated the same. And you can tell me that this battle is unnecessary, but I know, personally, that this battle is necessary."

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Season of the witch


WCBN's fabulous postpunk and new wave show, "Some Faraway Beach," did a Halloween theme on Sunday. There was no "Bela Lugosi's Dead" or "Death Disco," which was a shame (used in previous years, maybe?), but This Mortail Coil was inspired. Serene, quietly disturbing, a huge relief after the Misfits/Motörhead/DKs bludgeoning--total highlight of the set.

Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians, "My Wife and My Dead wife"
Virgin Prunes, "Lovelornalimbo"
Milkshake Melon, "What Did You Do with the Body?
Mx-80 Sound, Theme from Halloween
B-52s, "Devil in my Car"
Siouxsie and the Banshees, "The Killing Jar"
Front 242, "Tragedy for You"
Bigod 40, "The Bog"
The Misfits, "Halloween"
Motörhead, "Go to Hell"
Dead Kennedys, "Halloween"
This Mortal Coil, "Tarantula"
Ramones, "Pet Sematary"

Monday, October 29, 2007

Allegories of contamination

Not to put too fine a point on the devolution of this blog into a kind of Fag Hag's Digest, but:

1. Somebody could teach a really killer comp lit class on unsolved queer murder mysteries in Western history. It's a little on the fluffy side, for sure, but you could tether it to, say, Discipline and Punish in order to work the civic retribution and surveillance angles and call it "Unresolvable Deviance: Murder, Conspiracy and Queer Martyrology from Edward II to Pasolini." Spend at least a couple of days each on Christopher Marlowe, Tchaikovsky and Roger Casement. The syllabus writes itself!

2. Black White + Gray came out week before last. Patti Smith is a mensch, and you could zest a lemon on Robert Mapplethorpe's cheekbones.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Currying Canal Street

The greatest headline ever written?


An art installation made out of a bed is now at a Manchester curry house, but it’s not by Tracey Emin.

Customers visiting Sangam Restaurant will wait to be seated on a ‘pink’ bed covered with incense and Urdu poetry, inspired by the artist's conversations with South Asian women who are lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.

It’s part of a project entitled Mixing it Up: Queering Curry Mile and Currying Canal Street, in which arts collective Sphere are combining aspects of Mancunian identity with places they are not normally associated with. The bed at Sangam (until October 12 2007) challenges the stereotypical view of Canal Street as white, male, and gay, and ‘Curry Mile’ as Asian and heterosexual...
(Read more)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

She should be so lucky

Since when does Kylie have the world's coolest backing band? It's like an all-star glam revival team recruited from Hedwig, Velvet Goldmine, Goldfrapp's "Ooh La La" video and Roxy Music c. 1972 as recreated by David LaChapelle. It's swell she can make a comeback and flop backwards over pianos and look just like Nicole Kidman and everything, but can we have some more of the band, please?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Retail oddity

For shame, Target! If you're going to encourage the youth of America to emulate David Bowie, mustn't you hawk wigs and frocks and codpieces and no-budge Crimson Obsession liquid eyeliner alongside fedoras and skinny ties? (For the record, P-Fork said it first). Or at least include a helpful male cosmetics sidebar sponsored by L'Oreal? The narcissism and commercialism are well aligned, certainly, but there's more to the man than the trench coat from The Man Who Fell to Earth and the hoodie from the cover of Low (itself a still from TMWFtE). And when did Bowie wear a parka vest? Show me Bowie wearing a parka vest and I'll show you Lawrence Welk in a dashiki.

What we're dealing with here isn't so much Keanan Duffty inspired by David Bowie as it is Keanan Duffty ripping off the bits of Hedi Slimane that were emulating pretty London hustlers who were inspired by David Bowie. Although speaking of, it was brave of Target to have its web site stream Jean Genie, a song that is clearly about a hustler/Jean Genet/something more than the corporate heterosexuality tacitly endorsed by the ghosts of Target lines' past.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Lytton Strachey as rutabaga

I'll be in Minneapolis for the next four days. If you've got a hot tip on a Twin Cities art show/music festival/new vegetable puppet opera based on the life of Dora Carrington, let me know. Sanden Totten, I'm looking at you.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A thousand words

This Towers of London album cover looks familiar somehow. The monochrome, the alley backdrop, the pink script, the scrappy boy-punk fraternity carefully posed to confront the world--it's almost like they're...referencing something through their iconography! Trying to mark themselves as inheritors of some kind of authentic legacy!

Right, then.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Das schlaue Füchslein

Radar: Your old guitarist, Cure frontman Robert Smith, is set to do a duet with Ashlee Simpson. Do you think he should be killed for treason?

Siouxsie Sioux: Who is Ashlee Simpson?

Radar: I love that you said that!

Siouxsie Sioux: No, really, who is he?

Black Magic Woman, cont.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Stealing Pink Flag is not the answer

Yesterday evening, somebody or a gang of somebodies broke into Jon and Mark's new house. Said somebodies shattered a window, came in through a back room and helped themselves to Mark's computer, a stereo, $10 worth of change and Jon's enormous CD collection, artists N - S. Thus, Music to Climb the Apple Tree By was spared, and Myrmidons of Melodrama was not. Some Wire disappeared as well, but only because it was in a stack on top of Jon's shelves, not because it was specially selected by the thieves. Before Jon told me this, I imagined a band of disenfranchised Wire fans roaming south Minneapolis, breaking into people's homes and seizing Situationist recordings in order to redistribute them to the populace. If they'd been doing that, they would probably have remembered to steal Entertainment! as well.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Blame it on the ocarina

Because really, people just don't get down on the psalmodikon, schreierpfeife and MIDI-pedalboard the way they used to:

Lauren Pelon: Women in Music, Someone Will Remember Us

4:00 - 5:30 PM, September 24, 2007
Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, Michigan League
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor MI

Lauren Pelon traces the story of women in music and performs music from around the world. The concert celebrates music written by, or for, women. Crossing the boundaries of time, distance and culture, Pelon sings and plays approximately 25 ancient and modern instruments, some designed for women and some forbidden to them.

This event is co-sponsored by Center for the Education of Women, School of Music Theatre & Dance.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Where precisely

Matos wrote in asking for some clarification of my last post:

Darbyshire [sic], Pauline Oliveros (who ran the Mills College dept of electronic music), Laurie Anderson, Bebe Barron, Clara Rockmore, Roberta Beyer, Maryanne Amacher, Laurie Spiegel . . . wait, where precisely are women being written out of old-school electronic music history again?

I guess my concern isn't for "electronic music history," which inevitably includes all the big names he mentioned, but for the broader stories of women's involvement in music that are in told in popular press, film and television. Here I'm thinking especially of those media that are targeted towards little girls. These stories tend to focus on women as solo vocalists prior to about 1975 to the point of leaving out many important bands, to say nothing of drummers, producers, engineers, etc. Technicians are usually tremendously upstaged. So as a girl growing up in the U.S. today, you learn about women musicians, but only up to a point. You eventually deduce from mainstream sources (and the lack thereof) that women's participation was conditional, and absorb tacit assumptions such as "there weren't any women drummers before the 1980s, there weren't any female record producers in the early days, there were no all-girl garage rock bands," etc. Clearly, if you are a music critic or historian you are going to know these things aren't true. But if you're a 12 year-old and your only exposure to music history is, say, MTV and VH1, you're never going to hear about Delia Derbyshire and Pauline Oliveros and the Luv'd Ones and Mo Tucker and all the women who one way or another did musical things before mainstream history says it was culturally and realistically "possible" for them (you'll hear about the Velvet Underground, sure, but what major Velvets documentary has ever devoted serious time to Tucker?) Hopefully, if you're a precocious and resourceful 12 year-old you're going to get on the internet and find out about these people, but even then you're going to have to know what you're looking for and the digging is going to be hard and slow-going.

Any more thoughts, Matos et al.? Keep the dialogue going!

Saturday, September 15, 2007


The best thing in this month's issue of The Wire (the one with PJ Harvey on the cover) is Simon Reynolds' review of White Noise's Electric Storm, first released in 1969 and currently undergoing a reissue by Island/Universal. As interesting as the words are, it's an accompanying picture that clinches it: a small black-and-white photo of White Noiser Delia Derbyshire, bent over an array of reel-to-reel tape consoles.

It's an arresting image, not least because it seems like it shouldn't exist. We're not used to seeing photographic proof of women's involvement with audio engineering in the early 1960s; it wasn't supposed to have happened. Replace the console under Derbyshire's fingers with a typewriter and the photo slides into a historical context we can recognize. But as it stands, the image of a woman hard at work in a recording studio, her hair and clothes dating her as unmistakably 60s, inspires a kind of revolutionary disbelief. This isn't an ironic feminist collage, the kind that inserts grinning housewives into the cockpits of space shuttles. It's what actually happened. Women were involved in early electronic music; they did stand at consoles and splice tape and twiddle knobs, even in the presumed-to-be-all-male corridors of the 1960s BBC. That there was only a minority of them doesn't erase their existence. It's a shame our narratives of women's musical history don't accommodate them.

They certainly don't accommodate Delia Derbyshire, whose name survives primarily as the arranger and co-producer of the original theme to Dr. Who, which stands as one of the most icily beautiful pieces of pop ever used in the service of science fiction television. This was still the era when a record company could refuse to hire a woman by citing a men-only policy (Decca turned down Derbyshire in 1959), but the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop was more enlightened and took on five women for its eighteen-member staff. Derbyshire worked there until 1973.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

When more is not enough

One thing people seem to be missing in the Britney VMAs fiasco is the built-in voyeuristic critique of "Gimme More." In the context of the song, it isn't Brit-Brit who wants more; it's us. "Gimme More" starts out as a straightforward club brag/sex invite not too different from the thousands of others that have supplied pop music with lyrical material for the last 60+ years. But then the story turns, and suddenly we're veering away from the territory of R. Kelly's "More and More" towards something closer in mood and critical intent to the Flying Lizards' "Hands 2 Take"***:

Cameras are flashing my way, dirty dancing
They keep watching (They keep watching)
Keep watching
Feels like the crowd is saying,
"Gimme gimme more, Gimme more, Gimme gimme more"

If it all feels repetitive and unforgiving, that's because the watchers are, too. We (and let's face it, we're all implicated) relentlessly demand more from Britney: more disaster, more trauma, more Bad Girl Mama baby-dropping and limo-exiting crotch flashes. We keep her in the sights of a Panoptical surveillance system so insatiable and vigilant it would make Foucault squirm.

At the VMAs, the premise of "Gimme More" was literalized to the point of absurdity, with the watchers at home and in the Las Vegas audience demanding more even as Britney served it up. By the time she was sleep-syncing, "I just can't control myself/They want more?/ Well, I'll give 'em more!" the entire spectacle threatened to collapse under the weight of its own self-referentiality. And in the end, it did collapse, because Britney didn't deliver on her promise. After previous years of python-handling and Madonna-kissing, the 2007 VMAs' spangly knickers, bleached weave and wobbly phoned-in stripper poses just weren't enough "more" by comparison. They were a whole lot less.

In a weird way, though, Britney did give us what we all wanted anyway: more failure. Nothing's as fun as kicking a diva when she's down, and Brit's been tremendously reliable in giving us glorious, inscrutable failures to consume and shake our heads at. For the time being, failure is her greatest strategy for success. Her real downfall won't come until the screw-ups cease to entertain, and the demands for more gradually fade into a silence that asks for nothing at all.

***"Hands 2 Take"
So you're, you're screaming,
you're screaming out for more
You got hands to take
Hey, what are you waiting for?

Anything you want
In the land of toll-free
At least in self abuse
There's a little dignity

Monday, September 10, 2007

It's got to be boring

Somehow, I am not making this up.

On Nov. 28, 1976, Andy Warhol and a companion sat down with Jodie Foster at the Café Pierre in Manhattan to conduct a question-and-answer session for Interview magazine. Brandy Foster (misidentified as Randy) accompanied her daughter to the meeting, but soon split, leaving her youngest child, who had just turned 14, to fend for herself. Warhol asked most of the questions.

Andy Warhol: So, when are you going to get married?

Jodie Foster: Never. I hope. It’s got to be boring — having to share a bathroom with someone.

Andy Warhol: Gee, we believe the same things.

-Forever Jodie, Forever a Pro

Friday, September 07, 2007

Soda pop tastes good to me today, yeah

Miranda July stumping for Slant 6 in the New York Times! First generation riot grrrl solidarity in a family newspaper, just the way it should be. This almost makes up for the recent Rick Rubin/Gossip sketchiness. I feel the same way July does about the Soda Pop Rip Off record. That thing is a marvel: sixteen songs, original DC riot grrrl tenacity, three smart girls mixing it up in the early 90s Dischord treehouse. The finale, "Thirty-Thirty Vision," might be the best Slant 6 song ever were it not for the B-side of Inzombia, which I defend in spite of the title track. Heck, even that is kind of worth it for the experimental gutsiness, witchy organ meanderings and lyrics about doughnut varieties. Instrumental minimalism was a strong suit of theirs. Slant 6! Grrrl-tested, Miranda-approved.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Everybody into the Range Rover

The Gossip just won't stop blowing up. Today they're in the New York Times Magazine, bookending Lynn Hirschberg's combination state-of-the-music-industry address and Rick Rubin profile. That the Gossip can be called a "new" band when they've been around for over seven years is bewildering and sad, and makes the conclusion of the article all the more ominous:

Rubin headed back to his Range Rover. In the car, he said he had some live footage of the Gossip that he wanted to show me. "I saw the group at the Troubadour, and they blew my mind," he said. "It was the best show I've seen in five years. Afterward, I met with the band. They felt stressed, and they were having trouble writing songs. The energy in the room when they were performing was so intense, and I'm not even sure how we'd get it to feel like that in the studio. So we decided to record a live show during their European tour, and we're going to release a DVD of the live album as their first release."

Rubin looked pleased. Beth Ditto, the lead singer of the Gossip, is exactly what he has been looking for since he took this job at Columbia: she is an outsize personality in an outsize body with a Joplin-esque, bluesy voice. Ditto is the kind of artist Rubin loves — unique, ambitious and open to guidance. "For a band like the Gossip," Rubin continued, "the support of a record company like Columbia is still really important. I grew up in the independent music business, and you still really need the muscle of the majors. A record company call can still get you heard like nobody else."

Rubin paused. "That's the magic of the business," he said. "It's all doom and gloom, but then you go to a Gossip show or hear Neil [Diamond] in the studio and you remember that too many people make and love music for it to ever die. It will never be over. The music will outlast us all."

True enough. But what kind of "guidance" does Rubin have in mind? And what's all this about the Gossip needing his "muscle"? Last time I checked, they were pretty muscular on their own. Last time I checked, they were a radical feminist punk band saving the lives of queer misfit smalltown American youths one song at a time, too busy living their politics to save the corporate music industry from its own demise. Is that in danger of changing? Where do they go from here?

The Gossip and Neil Diamond. Peas in a pod.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Perhaps you sold out to God

A first taste of I'm Not There. The beautifully awkward homoerotic electricity between Ginsberg and Blanchett-as-Dylan (called Jude in the film) is rapturous and rare and somehow theatrical. Shakespearean, even. It's like Rosalind and Orlando in the Forest of Arden. "Where dwell you, pretty youth?" you almost expect Ginsberg to ask. Cate's character is supposed to be a man in the film's narrative, and obviously Rosalind was only dragging it up, but that makes the gender bluff all the more confusing and layered and exciting. Todd Haynes is still the only demi-mainstream director to translate queer theory to film in a way that doesn't compromise either the art or the politics. If his movies were books, he'd be Annamarie Jagose by now.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

In these dinosaur hands

Becky Smith, lighting up the Indy marquee. Screaming Females are (deservedly) lucky to have her in their corner. Ace criticism and politics aside, Bex's good citizenship is legendary; she is known to spontaneously gift people with veggie burgers and and public transportation fares and tiny green thrift store dresses, just because she is hospitable like that. May have happened to me once, even.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Domo arigato, Mr. Legato

I forgot to mention it until now, but I've been writing scripts for Peformance Today all summer. My last one airs Friday at noon in the Twin Cities, and lots of other times on local affiliates. If you hear some crazy verbal flailing about Vivaldi and Legrenzi sonatas, that's me.

Today I was researching Sibelius, but since I had the Grove Dictionary "S" volume out I also happened to see this, re: one Sinatra, Frank.

The crucial innovations in Sinatra's approach were based (unwittingly) on the Italian bel canto tradition, particularly his legato attack (known to his detractors as 'mooing'), his handling of portamento and rubato, and his sensitive modulation of vowel sounds. Like Crosby, he made full use of the microphone, but with a new awareness of its potential as an 'instrument' for achieving a wide range of dynamics and for magnifying the expressive effects of singing at medium volume. His lightness of breath and 'forward' vocal production permitted an extraordinarily clear enunciation and allowed him to concentrate on shading and nuance.

I'm really sick of everything under the sun reminding me of Morrissey, but I'm swearing to you, the comparison makes sense here. If you take Sinatra, Anglicize him, intellectualize him and make him watch Elvis's 1969 Comeback Special about a thousand times, you've got Ringleader-era Morrissey--or his vocalisms, anyway. The mooing, the weird bel canto influence, the confident rubato--it's all there. It also makes sense, I think, because neither of their voices is naturally strong or technically impressive. What they lack in power they make up for in phrasing and interpretation.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Foster child

The best part of the Simpsons movie turned out to be the Jodie Foster poster in the lobby. For serious. What is this? A poster, or an end-of-semester final project for Contemporary Queer Iconographies 102: Cinema and Graphic Design?

I am liking the post-Maverick Jodie Foster. When she's not playing a single mom, she's an astronomer, or a nun, or a jet propulsion engineer named Kyle who is also a single mom. Foster-as-icon is so dykey she sails 'round the horn and hits heterosexual again. Dark alleys! Guns! Convenient vigilante-mama hip sacks! Feminist revenge fantasia, Hollywood-style.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

I hear you're buying a synthesizer and an arpeggiator and are throwing your computer out the window because you want to make something real.

The Triple Rock gets big points for having Can’t Stand the Rezillos on its jukebox. I am more used to j-boxes whose obscurity thresholds max out at Bay City Rollers songs that are not “Saturday Night.” But not the Triple Rock. They also have Kings of the Wild Frontier, which means you can play “Antmusic” and feel terribly ironic and meta and pleased with yourself. So unplug the jukebox/ and do us all a favour. Yes, Adam Ant sings in British spellings. He is talented that way. He did, let us remember, rock the disoriented androgynous pirate look long before Johnny Depp. If not quite Keith Richards.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Austen powers II: The Jane who shagged me

Emmy wrote in with some incisive comments about Becoming Jane and its anxious reification of Austen's sex life:

It's this strange kind of patriarchal baptism, as if only a man could unlock her own creativity and give it back to her - as a gift? The consolation prize for a broken heart?...The celibacy thing: again, a presumption that for a woman to feel or understand desire - and to be able to translate that experience creatively - she necessarily has had sex with a man, or come close to it. Absurdity! How else does one experience desire and lust and longing but in the absence of its consummation?

One doesn't, as the entire career of Morrissey has proved.

Emmy also points out the misguidedness of the film's effort "to construct a traditional 'romance' narrative for Austen's life," since this rearrangement "completely misread[s] her intentions and her achievements as a novelist." One such achievement was her nonjudgmental--and proto-third wave feminist--recognition that a woman must be trusted to follow her intuition about what was best for her. She knew that different choices were ideal for different women, and nowhere is that credo more manifest than in the character of Charlotte Lucas (also cited by Emmy). Austen sets up her readers to be horrified by Charlotte's acceptance of Mr. Collins precisely so that she can later convince them of its logic. A loveless marriage is not right for Lizzy Bennet. It is, however, right for Charlotte, because they are different kinds of women. Austen urges us not to judge Charlotte for her choice, which actually turns out to be quite cunning in its way; Mr. Collins spends most of his time either at Rosings Park or in his own apartment, and Charlotte is free to do with herself--and her new income--as she pleases.

Sanden also chimed in on some of these issues, saying quite correctly that the biographical fallacy can be seen at work on men as well as women. He offered the example of Shakespeare in Love, which reconstructs the playwright's early life as a kind of moment-for-moment inspiration for every line and allusion used in Romeo and Juliet.

There are three reasons I don't think Shakespeare in Love's fallacious biography is in the same league as Jane's. First, Shakespeare is a farce, delivered with wink-wink nudge-nudge literary playfulness by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard. "Look," they say with great delight, "there's a skull! There's a girl named Viola! There's a Puritan on a street corner yelling, 'A plague on both your houses!'" The biographical inventions are not to be taken too seriously. Nobody thinks that's how Shakespeare really wrote Romeo and Juliet.

Jane, on the other hand, takes its fallacy as plausible lost truth. Viola de Lesseps never existed, but Tom Lefroy did, so his inclusion and inflation in the film bring with them the shimmer of historical possibility. As James McAvoy (Lefroy/Darcy) puts it, "He becomes her first flirtation, really. In historical reference he was probably--we think--one of her first beaux. Even though nothing came of it. [The movie] just charts their relationship, and how it might have influenced the novels that she went on to write, and the characters therein."

Second, Shakespeare's reputation as a writer isn't exactly up for discussion. His is the quintessential authorliness, the creative masculinity that generates art through toil and invention and original thought. He is not tethered, as Austen is, to a tradition for thinking about women writers as mere regurgitators of personal experience that goes back to Chaucer's Wife of Bath. Because it buys into this tradition, Becoming Jane risks convincing a new generation of readers that Austen was just a spunky gal with untapped writing potential until she met a sexy man--and then dished about it in novel form. Biopics are great at flattening complex lives into digestible films, and don't discriminate between the sexes; it's just that women are already starting out on the bottom of the ladder.

Finally, when a film that is not a romantic farce, but a romantic drama, offers precise translations of fiction into biography, the whole thing just feels tedious and condescending. As in this scene from Jane, in which Maggie Smith does her best Lady Catherine de Bourgh impression and the text of Chapter 56 of P&P is all but painted across the frame.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Austen powers

The disappointing thing about Becoming Jane is its assumption that in order for Jane Austen to have written the novels she did, she had to have experienced their romantic dramas in real life. It’s got “biographical fallacy” written all over it. And as with many biographical fallacies, there's a twinge of misogyny involved. We don’t assume that Daniel Defoe was shipwrecked for twenty-eight years on a deserted island. Or decide that Dickens must have spent his youth as an orphaned London pickpocket. So why must Jane Austen have fallen in love with a prideful snob whom she originally despised? Why don’t we trust her with enough creativity to have come up with that on her own?

Tom Lefroy did spark Austen’s interest. It’s not as if the filmmakers made him up. Her crushed-out comments about him are preserved in her letters to her sister Cassandra. But the entire episode lasted about two weeks. It’s not impossible that Austen based Mr. Darcy on Lefroy; maybe she did. But why must we rush around making films pushing the idea that Austen simply funneled her lived experience into her novels, without any of the imaginative sweating and grunting we attribute to our male writers of genius?

The film’s taglines make its agenda plain. Her own life is her greatest inspiration. And Between sense and sensibility and pride and prejudice was a life worth writing about. Actually, her life wasn’t worth writing about, it was fairly boring—that’s why she wrote novels. The source of Jane Austen’s talent wasn’t her ability to write from English Regency middle-class life; it was her knack for standing apart from it. Her avoidance of marriage and children, her finesse at sidestepping the sexist demands of flirtations and engagements and wifehood, were what allowed her to observe and satirize them all so astutely in the first place.

It seems to me that what we’re really afraid of here is letting Jane off the hook as celibate, which she almost certainly was. Celibacy doesn’t sit well with our modern 24-hour porn hotline sensibilities (or, admittedly, our feminist sex-positive ones). The idea of an Austen who never got down to it is just...disappointing, and vaguely un-adult. We want the woman who set up the electric sexual currents between Lizzie and Darcy and Emma and Mr. Knightley to have known first-hand what she was dipping her nib in her inkwell about. That she didn’t doesn’t detract from her artistry. It only confirms it.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Ambient Jean Genet Music Machine

"NNNAAAMMM" can really creep a girl out. It's what Trent was gunning for in "Closer," only he was in thrall to an industrial-techno god at the time rather than a Teutonic noise one, so some of the menace was glossed in translation. Einsty seem to corner the market on paranoid soundscaping simply by virtue of being so German.

Yesterday I came across an endearingly nonsensical song concept: Eartha Kitt's "Somebody Bad Stole De Wedding Bell." It hinges on the highly disruptive theft of a bell from a church steeple but I won't divulge more except to report it demands repeatedly, "Who stole de ding-dong?? Who stole de bell???" in a baffling just-add-rasta microwaveable "Islands" accent. Eartha may have been Catwoman but she was not from Kingstown.

I also heard what is surely one of the more unintentionally homoerotic offerings from a genre already rippling with unintentional homoeroticism: Richard Thompson's "I'll Never Give It Up." That one I'm going to let speak for itself, as it is a glory to behold.

I can't eat, I can't sleep
Knowing that you're on
Your midnight creep
I can't jump, I can't jive
Knowing that you want me
Dead or alive
Come on, do your worst, boy
That's the way, that's the way
Hit me where it hurts, boy,
That's the way, that's the way
Puff until you burst, boy
That's the way, that's the way
But I'll never give it up
I'll never give it up

I don't run, I don't care
Some day we're going to
Meet somewhere
You and me will rock and roll
When you crawl out of
Your sick little hole
So give me what you got
Put your money in the pot
Let's see what you are and
What you're not

How is this not a sample lyric from a lost English-language musical adaptation of Querelle? Really? Then again, I was just re-reading the chapter of Between Men where Eve K. Sedgwick insists that Our Mutual Friend was all about sphincters. So who knows.

Monday, July 16, 2007

White Blouse Disco

Playing catch-up due to lack of internet access.

The new Rasputina record is really good, if baffling to review since I'd already played my concept album card for Mirah. Maybe we're having an esoteric concept album renaissance. Dame Darcy did the video for "1816, The Year Without a Summer" and her style makes barnfuls of sense when you've got all that dulcimer and Mary Shelley-referencing going on.

Stevens Square Zinefest was super and had reams of zines, mostly per-, anarchist and graphical. I finally met Lacey, my successor in The Sanden Totten Experience, and since she happens to be the zine librarian for the Belfry's Bat Annex collection I got to check out Tight Pants #7. Jenna Freedman was there and led a discussion about zines, their relationship to vanity pubs and uncertain future in our increasingly digibonkers netiverse. The best part was when she asked whether there is any riot grrrl energy in Minneapolis anymore. Laura Larson of Baby Guts and Kitten Forever was sitting literally four feet in front of her, cross-legged, bag with a Bikini Kill patch by her side. She smiled and said quietly, "Yeah. Yeah, there is." The Kitten Forever Sissy Party cassette was on sale for a measley $3.00 American so I adopted a pink one and took it home. It is nice to purchase a recording when all the members of its band are in the room with you, and you are not even at a show. This is an essential cassette tape, for serious-serious. Kitten Forever are the Go-Go's in 1982. No! They are the Runaways in 1975. NO, NO. ACTUALLY they are the Mo-dettes in 1979. They are that shiny with promise and feminism and guitar snark.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The heart is a lonely punter


You are living in a good time and place when you can ride a bus downtown after work and see PATTI SMITH spelled out on yr local theater marquee. And not be hallucinating. The State has her sandwiched between KINGS OF COMEDY and DREAM THEATER. A week and a half later the Orpheum is doing Macy's Glamorama 2007 across the street. If the Hennepin theater district web site has one person writing all of its events promo copy, then the selfsame person wrote "touchstone for the feminist movement" and "sensational style showdown." This is why we learn about personal-political multiplicity, kittens.

45:33 is really great until you remember it was commissioned by Nike, and that the record art has a swoosh on it. Maybe music shouldn't be less enjoyable when midwived by a multi-billion dollar sportswear supply corporation. But somehow it is.

Mark Simpson has noticed the weird "Mozza outed himiself" reference in Out magazine and offers a rebuttal, as well as that revealing complete still from "Flesh."

Repeated listening to the Nina Hagen version of "Ziggy Stardust" ruins the original. Meaning that the original never sounds quite as good afterwards. Which maybe isn't so bad after all?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The music didn't die, it got eclipsed

Because my life exploded lately, I had been planning on writing about the Linder show, the record Douglas gave me, the test scripts I wrote for Performance Today, and my interview with Melora Creager. But then yesterday my life exploded even more, because while Pants was waiting for her bus after work, a stranger asked her for money, and when she refused, he punched her in the face. She was ambulanced to the emergency room and got four stitches. She was very brave. But then, that is the Pants way. We are at home today trying to make sense of all of this, especially the randomness of the assault. Why her? Why yesterday? I keep thinking about Ionesco and Beckett and Camus. Absurdism is somehow a lot less easy to like when it invades your life.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

It's not TMBG, it's Polaris

When the early 90s revival arrives in a few years, as it inevitably will, this is one of the few things that will make it survivable. Juliana Hatfield guest stars in Episode 6! She was really making the rounds back then. IMDb also says that Michael Maronna, a.k.a. Big Pete, was once suspended from high school for setting fire to a guitar. That's some inspiring musical juvenile delinquency, that is.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Oh my Talulah Gosh

There don't seem to be any Film Molecules lyrics online so I've had a go at transcribing "That Girl." Tender Trap was Amelia Fletcher's band after Heavenly and it was very brainy (cf. "Son of Dorian Gray") and grrrl-supportive and twee, but in an empowering, Sarah/K Records, girl-nerds-are-punks-too sort of way.

She would never believe what she was taught in school
All of the history and the geography
Better to read Patti Smith and Simone de Beauvoir
To know how things are

That girl, that girl has a second degree in the language of girl
That girl, that girl had a copy of
Her Jazz when she was at school

She likes to play Suzi Quatro while she sits and reads
Bought it at Woolworth's for £1.50
She knows the record was made long before she was born
But it speaks to her louder than Korn

That girl, that girl knows all there is to know about record sleeve art
That girl, that girl thinks Yoko was a hero, Lennon was a tart

Her record collection separates women from men
Sometimes she lets them mingle, then breaks it up again

That girl, that girl knows all there is to now about record sleeve art
Tthat girl, that girl thinks that Travis are boring, Le Tigre are smart

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

How are things on the West Coast?

Paul Banks' vocals sound slightly different this time around. Flatter and more nasal. I like them but I like Pants's facsimile even more. She and I agreed it's not so much a Paul Banks impression as it is Ethel Merman coughing up Fred Schneider doing a Paul Banks impression. Worlds of croaky sprechstimme difference.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Release me

There needs to be a worldwide moratorium on the playing of Kid A in coffee shops. What was once a mere annoyance has Alberto Gonzalesed into a pandemic of unavoidable proportions. Half-caf soy macchiato slurping was not appropriately soundtracked by Yorkers singing "cut the kids in half" in 2000; it isn't today, either.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The untamed shrew

I'm waiting for the irate letters from Hüsker Dü fans asking, What about Zen Arcade?? to come rolling in, but my story on the new Mirah record is up at the Merc.

I proudly bought the NME with the nude Beth Ditto cover today. It's a grand day for punk rock, fat-positive queer feminism and not caring what other people think about you. Seriously--Germaine Greer approves. The sidebar explaining riot grrrl feels a bit forced and tossed off, as if they had to think of something to fill up column inches at the last minute and couldn't quite commit to a Dorothy Allison recommended reading list. But NME still earns innumerable pogo points for gleeful in-yr-face-and-down-yr-pants homoeroticism elsewhere in the issue. Page 18 is all I'm saying. PAGE 18. Perhaps KY Jelly adverts are to come?

Not that 120 Days needed much help to begin with.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wolves in the winehouse

Kandia Crazy Horse nails the British soul girl vocal minstrelsy. I find myself liking Amy W. because of her unapologetic, endearing dementia but the phenomenon of Joss Stone unnerves me. It's like Mary J. Blige's voice got really thin and weak and sickly and went to live in Julia Stiles' body.

One wants to big up Allen, Winehouse, and Stone on the sisterhood empowerment tip for their brassy attitude and scathing kiss-offs to trifling men on these recordings. And it's interesting that they've emerged at a time when their male counterparts, such as Morrison — and David Gray and Chris Martin — seem to have "bitched up." Yet this gender power–reversal is sadly trumped by glaring issues of race and authenticity.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Painting pictures for the blind

Record recs!

A riot grrrl revival is tearing up the Twin Cities as we speak. Among the perpetrators are Baby Guts and Kitten Forever (above). Baby Guts see your Spiderfighter, raise you a rerecorded Pretty on the Inside that is actually listenable. Kitten Forever knit fat positivity, vitriol and Allison Wolfe-ian high irony (vocalisms, too--they end up somewhere between Bratmobile and Deep Lust). "This is a hostile takeover." Anti-nostalgia, non-capitulation. Feminist riotcore, grotty punk brilliance. Kitten Forever holler in "Keep It Up": This is what we need to do/take it back from those dudes. Laura Larson is the singer/guitarist for Baby Guts, the bassist for Kitten Forever, and yr new heroine. Kitten Forever have a cassette called "Sissy Party" and Baby Guts have the Pocketknife demo, as well as the Gasoline EP. City Pages has already caught on, so should you.

The new Mirah record could be the concept album coup of '07. It's all about entomology and uses words like "phloem" and "ecdysis" and "liquefaction" and "vociferous." The entire thing must have about 20,000 rhymed couplets in it (I lost count round about track 3). It sounds kind of like early Rasputina sometimes, being just vocal and cello and drums, though there is also accordion and oud. Rasputina have a new record coming out themselves on June 26th, which beats Mirah's release date by a week (hers is August 6th).

I love how Pink Flag still sounds like it was recorded yesterday. Or maybe it's just that everything coming out these days sounds like it was recorded in 1977. Hi-hat to beat the band and leave it for dead. If you listen to "Strange" with headphones on you get one side of the riff curling into each ear individually, so it's like having a twine-covered ping pong ball bouncing around inside yr skull, left lobe to right, right lobe to left. How Elastica ever worked up the guff to quote from "Three Girl Rhumba" in "Connection" the way they did is beyond thought.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Her Noise

My Electrelane feature/interview/review is out and about and readable. I didn't allow myself to look at the other press for No Shouts while I was working on it, so once I was finished I went on a spree and eventually found this puzzling salvo in Stylus:

Electrelane are great. They can’t really play their instruments, aren’t particularly talented singers, and record almost everything in a super-minimal, naturalistic way that could best be described as sparse. I think they’re fantastic.

It surprises me that someone could listen to No Shouts and come away with this opinion (listen and form yr own here). The "they can't play but I'll condescend to like them in a patronizing, slightly ironic way" line of criticism makes me nervous, especally when its premise appears to be invalid, and even more especially when its condescendsion is directed towards women. It reminds me of the way some people still talk about the Slits and the Raincoats.

I had been looking forward to doing an Electrelane story that didn't bring up the fact that the band is made up of women--that looked forward to a future where the existence of a "girl band" was a ho-hum non-story rather than a sexist salt-lick and moldy journalistic fetish. I chose not to, because as tempting as it may be to imagine, that future is still unrealized, and until it's been safely midwived in we're going to have to continue publicly waving about our all-lady bands and labels and festivals and snack foods-based performance art collectives that make Emma Goldman sculptures out of Hostess cupcakes. An explicit, vigilant feminist politics of visibility may be exhausting, but for now I've decided it's kind of a no-brainer.

Case in emphatic point: the expansion of the Her Noise project, which lives here, to include a documentary film:

Her Noise was an exhibition which took place at South London Gallery in 2005 with satellite events at Tate Modern and Goethe-Institut, London. Her Noise gathered international artists who use sound to investigate social relations, inspire action or uncover hidden soundscapes. The exhibition included newly commissioned works by Kim Gordon & Jutta Koether, Hayley Newman, Kaffe Matthews, Christina Kubisch, Emma Hedditch and Marina Rosenfeld. A parallel ambition of the project was to investigate music and sound histories in relation to gender, and the curators set out to create a lasting resource in this area.
The video documents the development of Her Noise between 2001 and 2005 and features interviews with artists including Diamanda Galas, Lydia Lunch, Kim Gordon, Jutta Koether, Peaches, Marina Rosenfeld, Kembra Pfhaler, Chicks On Speed, Else Marie Pade, Kaffe Matthews, Emma Hedditch, Christina Kubisch and the show's curators, Lina Dzuverovic and Anne Hilde Neset. The documentary also features excerpts from live performances held during Her Noise by Kim Gordon, Jutta Koether and Jenny Hoyston (Erase Errata), Christina Carter, Heather Leigh Murray, Ana Da Silva (The Raincoats), Spider And The Webs, Partyline, Marina Rosenfeld's 'Emotional Orchestra' at Tate Modern, and footage compiled for the 'Men in Experimental Music' video made during the development of the Her Noise project by the curators and Kim Gordon, featuring Thurston Moore and Jim O'Rourke.

I've only seen five minutes and already I can tell it's heaps better than that Play UK "The Punk Years: Typical Girls" rubbish.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Here slum the warm jets

Also in re: the Arctic Monkeys--Pants noticed today that the Monkeys' song "Only Ones Who Know" off of Favourite Worst Nightmare has the same opening chords as Brian Eno's "Some of Them Are Old." There are worse subconscious/accidental musical influences. Eno is a smartie with words as well as notes:

Years ago I realized that the recording studio was becoming a musical instrument. I even lectured about it, proclaiming that "by turning sound into malleable material, studios invite you to construct new worlds of sounds as painters construct worlds of form and color." I was thrilled at how people were using studios to make music that otherwise simply could not exist. Studios opened up possibilities. But now I'm struck by the insidious, computer-driven tendency to take things out of the domain of muscular activity and put them into the domain of mental activity. This transfer is not paying off.

The essay is from 1999, but it's obviously still hyper-relevant today. See also this more recent lecture from Pop!Tech.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The unforecasted storm

This month is the 25th anniversary of the forming of the Smiths. When you give yr rare Australian 1988 Hatful of Hollow reissue a celebratory spin, think of me. The Guardian has a couple of remembrances, an essay here and a top ten list there. Possibly the best point:

The sense of possibility that their best songs contain, the possibility that a 'simple' pop song could be as potent and as intimate, as literate and as allusive, as any other kind of great writing. You can hear that same sense of possibility in the lyrics of Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys, another writer who deals in the poetry of the parochial, who paints from a quintessentially English - indeed definably northern [sic] - palette.

Having seen the Arctic Monkeys at First Ave last week* I can say that this is true. Turner is the poet laureate of blog rock and it shows in his performance posture; hands clasped behind back, eyes downcast, mouth close enough to the mic so that no syllable will be lost, he doesn't sing so much as declaim. Morrissey tossed words like belligerent, tremulous and conjugal into Smiths songs and made it look easy; Turner manages the same (balaclava, escapologist) and demonstrates a Mozzian fondness for enjambment ("This House is a Circus"). He's also a mean internal rhymer from way back: There's a circle of witches--ambitiously vicious they are/ Our attempts to remind them of reason won't get us that far ("If You Were There, Beware"). It's not quite "cemetry gates/Keats and Yeats," but it'll do.

*The Moongkeys were totes upstaged by Be Your Own Pet. Jemima Pearl flailed and thrashed and banged her head around so much she threw up. Lady must be killing her inner ear equilibrium.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

People don't you know/ don't you know it's about time?

I contributed to this weekend's Mercury. It's the music issue (the biggest in the paper's history, apparently) and the theme is Rock & Jock. I changed Bette Midler to Kylie Minogue at the last second because she felt too last-generation throwback and I just couldn't bring myself to use Christina Aguilera. My Rolodex of fag hag icons is hopelessly dated. Ezra deserves credit for the queer angle, it was all his idea; that it dovetails with my plan to become the Eve K. Sedgwick of pop music crit is only a happy accident.

The best part of writing the thing was having an excuse to listen to "Get Ready For This" approximately seven times. That and falling down an early house wormhole that led me to discover the hotness of Ya Kid K. Wow. I bet a lot of people still don't know she's a woman. Call it the Mo Tucker effect. I doubt "Move This" gets played at sporting events as much as "Pump Up the Jam," but its video is especially excellent when viewed through a queer lens.

Monday, May 07, 2007

A friend, a banana and a camera

While doing research for my Electrelane story I ran across an old Power Out-era interview from when Rachel Dalley was in the band:

JF: Do you guys get fan mail? How does it make you feel?

EG: Sometimes it almost makes you want to cry. We once had a letter from this guy in Turkey and it was really sweet. He lived in an abandoned amusement park and he listened to our album while he was walking around with headphones.

MC: He was saying that all the rides came to life when he was listening to our album.

EG: And quite young teenage girls, we get a few letters from them. It's not like we have loads of letters, but when they do come, they make you feel better. To help someone get through something.

JF: Have you ever written fan mail?

EG: [To Rachel] Now you have to tell her the Robert Smith story.

RD: I didn't write to him, I turned up at his house with a banana. There was this magazine called Smash Hits and if you took a picture with a famous person holding a banana, you got a £10 voucher, so I went round his house with a friend, a banana and a camera. Caught him on his way out. He was living with his mum. We just knocked on the door and said, "Is Robert here?" He came out and chatted with us and let us take the picture.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Boys on the radio

I will be in Minneapolis all this summer writing for the Mercury and working for Minnesota Public Radio. Sanden is still a producer there and I am hoping to run into him often in elevators and stairwells and bustling around corners. I used to be in his band Baa Baa Blacksheep that is now Bla Bla Blacksheep and promises to take the Twin Cities by storm in the balmy Mpls June-August corridor. I do not even mind being the Caroline Rue/Jill Emery of this situation. Cuddlecore is where it's at in '07.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Train in vain

Not so good for listening to on trains: Love Is All; Delta 5 KRS comp/reissue; These New Puritans; The Queen Is Dead; Standing on a Beach; No Shouts, No Calls. The reigning champion of train-appropriate records is still Either/Or. The key is genre but also mood; anything jerky and aggressively up-tempo (post-punk obviously a no-no) doesn't cohere with the locomotive roll and you end up unable to enjoy either the music or the motion.

Trains really are the transportation of the future. In addition to the constant promise of Lady Vanishes-style Hitchcockian shenanigans you also get, on most trips longer than eight hours, double-decker levels with staircases, crazy-spacious bathrooms, water fountains, exciting theme cars (observation! dining! ladies' lounge!) and an entire bank of seats to yrself, since everybody else has paid triple the price to get an inner earache whilst squished into an airplane seat between a crying baby and an investment banker scream-brokering into his cell phone.

I could live happily on this train for several days, or as long as the carrot stick supply held out. If I stayed on I could be in Portland by Thursday. At the moment I am scooting through the marshes of Wisconsin. Did you know Wisconsin had marshes? Neither did I. It also has some smallish mountains that, on second thought, are probably only ambitious hills. In Michigan there were wild turkeys. See America by train! It'll surprise you!

Monday, April 23, 2007

La Môme

They made an Edith Piaf movie! The lack of subtitles doesn't really matter for English speakers, since the trailer speaks the universal visual language of campy diva biopics used since time immemorial: flashbulbs, applauding crowds, poignant backstage makeup removal, onstage collapse, lonely beachscapes, and more tragic screaming than you can shake a Judy Garland at. Also: tantrums! boxing! cross-dressing! France in the 1920s and 30s sure was a swell place for cross-dressing.

Friday, April 20, 2007


No Shouts, No Calls is phenomenal. The whole thing, from start to finish. Intricate and chiseled and crafted with great care. Becky and I happen to be doing features on Electrelane at the same time, so we are comparing notes--she's already incubating a theory that correlates 1) expatriate identity; 2) waves/water/sailing and the oceanic feminine in pop music; and 3) the last part of The Sex Revolts. I don't have a frame yet, just breathy questions, e.g., Is Emma Gaze the best drummer ever? Was that a hi-hat or a crash cymbal? Can a harmonium have a different mood than a regular organ? No Shouts makes one ask such questions, and rewards careful, reverent listens. It is going to be a huge record in a few months, for serious.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

EMP Pop Con 2007

Mairead is on a panel with Greil Marcus at this weekend's Pop Con. Her talk is triply worthy of attendance right out of the box, first because it is on Karen Dalton and therefore sidesteps the Dylan/Springsteen/over-analyzed wank-rock vortex of music crit doom; second because it promises to recoup all of the interviews Mairead did for her Bust piece on Karen that didn't make the final version (Lenny Kaye, Joanna Newsom, et al.), as well as her thoughts on the curious dilemma that is trying to memorialize someone seemingly removed from yr own time and place and personal experience; and third, because it is Mairead. Not going with her to the conference this year is going to be weird--like the part of E.T. when Elliott goes to school while E.T. stays at home, and E.T. drinks beer and does crazy stuff, and Elliott feels it, too, because of their psychic connection, and kisses the girl and saves the frogs from being dissected in science class. Save the frogs, Mairead! Save the frogs!

Some other nifty writers will be at the Pop Con, too:

Simon Reynolds,“Just 4 U London: Place and Race in British Dance Culture from Rave to Grime

Daphne Carr, Selling Sad: How Hot Topic Made the Mall (Safe for the) Miserable

Douglas Wolk, "The Woman in the Back: Clydie King in the Shadow of Classic Rock

Kara Jesella & Marisa Meltzer, "From Stupid Girls to Rebel Girls: Are Girl Power Anthems Saccharine-Flavored Sisterhood or a Political Force?”

Maura Johnston, “The Season Came To An End: Freestyle Brings Loneliness To A Crowded Dance Floor

Michaelangelo Matos, "A Matter of Trustafarians: Behind the Bob Marley Poster on the Dorm Room Wall"

Monday, April 16, 2007

The bats have left the belltower

The Illuminoids' Beck vs. Devo vs. Bauhaus has precious little Bauhaus (it's just "Undead! Undead! Undead!" tossed off at the end of the chorus and then a glimmer in the outro to finish) but it's organic enough to win the Pogo mashup seal of approval. Someone who had never heard these songs could reasonably believe this was the original version. Bauhaus are still my favorite pop music product named after an art movement. Art Brut and De Stijl finish second and third, respectively.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Bona drag

Female masculinity in hip-hop alert: as noted by Bex, "Like a Boy" is not the only recent video to include scenes of a normally high femme ladydiva sharing the screen with a digitally superimposed image of herself in boy drag. Beyoncé does it in "Upgrade You," too, though she's a bit less ferocious about it--she stops short of anything too overtly kingly and just wears baggy jeans and trainers with a white dress shirt and swept-back hair. Still, her Jay-Z impression is a thing to behold (cocked head! toothpick! lip curl!), and all the more interesting for the fact that towards the end of the video she literally transforms into him before our eyes. Whether this is more about gender fluidity or the perils of spending too much time with yr boyfriend, I dunno. Watch especially 2:33-3:25. The morph happens at about 2:99.

When you cross-reference Ciara and Beyoncé with this weekend's Village Voice cover on the AG subculture/community in Brooklyn (photogallery is too adorable for words), you get a far more sophisticated acknowledgement of the intersections of race and gender than the mainstream is usually willing to offer.

P.S. Re: non-draggy, jewelry-in-lipsticked-mouth, woman-as-commodity parts of "Upgrade You": I forgive and enjoy them, as I have decided they are camp and satirical. Yes. Anything that aspires to be a live-action recreation of Scrooge McDuck swimming through his safe deposit treasure room counts as satirical in my book.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Back in Albion

Homoerotic lightning rods The Libertines (the crucial ones, at least) reunited onstage tonight. Keep yr eyes peeled to NME, it'll be nothing but rapturous, swooning fanboy commentary for the next month at least.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

"2007. Ladies, I think it's time to switch roles."

Five things I never imagined would happen, but somehow miraculously have happened, or are about to:

That Ciara's video for "Like a Boy" would deliver on the promise of its single to such a gob-smackingly complete extent it would feature an army of dancing near-drag kings. It's hard to believe this is real, it's so beautiful and feminist and gender-slippery, as if Ciara's been reading her Judith Butler. Aaliyah comparisons are totes deserved from here on out.

That the New York Times Magazine
would run a full-page portrait of Miranda July. I still do a double-take every time I see her in a mainstream publication. It's like Huggy Bear in Newsweek--that insurmountable question of, "HOW DID THIS GET HERE?" It was awfully lame that the NYT decided the most important part of this feature was the pictures--as if all you really need to know about the six female actors and directors they interviewed can be gleaned from their headshots. There were quotes and tiny bios in the print edition, but you could barely make them out. The New York Sun has a much less fluff-dried piece on July's new show going up at The Kitchen here.

That someone
would find a way to make "My Humps" even more annoying than it was. That that someone would be Alanis Morissette.

That Matthew Bourne would announce his next project is a male-male re-do of Romeo and Juliet. He's going to use the Prokofiev score rather than the Tchaikovsky one. I like the Guardian's report best, with its overtones of, Listen, buddy, you'd better really queer it up this time and not just tease us under the table! And finally, speaking of teasing under the table, I also never imagined

That Morrissey would come to a tiny theater in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and that said theater would be within walking distance of my house, and that I would not be in town at the time. Similarly, that Morrissey once gave an interview wearing what appeared to be a leather jacket in a room full of taxidermied birds while sitting next to an unflappable Johnny Marr decked out with a human skull and a sparkly debutante necklace. I'm not complaining about that last bit, but one wonders whether the producers had the Smiths confused with Sex Gang Children.