Queer Music Reviews from QZE #16

These are CD and tape reviews that appeared in Queer Zine Explosion #16, published in November, 1998. All reviews by Larry-bob.

Remember, buy your books and CDs from local independent stores, not evil corporate chains or on-line mega-stores. Local stores can do special orders and get your books for you in days. Also request your local public library purchase books and CDs you like.

For ease of use, I have put all the new reviews in this file. For older reviews, see Queer Music Explosion.

Arthur Loves Plastic: Slice CD.
Bev S. is the musical mastermind behind Arthur Loves Plastic, with vocals provided by the Teflon Diva. There's also a lot of spoken samples from found sources on this CD. Bev is more talented than a lot of better-known musicians, so check her music out.

(Machine Heart Records, Box 66294, Washington, DC 20035. web: www.arthurlovesplastic.com )

Belloluna: Livid and Loving It CD.

Belloluna are a sort of angora Cardigans, in the Ed Wood sense, bringing a camp sense to the often too-serious world of lounge music. Piano-based tunes with a full band and horns about topics such as wanting to be like Martha Stuart, drama queens, and ruined vocal chords. (Daemon Records, Box 1207, Decatur, GA 30031. web: www.daemonrecords.com )

The Butchies: Are We Not Femme? CD.

The members of the Butchies are Kaia, Melissa, and Alison. Kaia and Melissa used to be in Team Dresch. They address queer issues with songs like "The Galaxy is Gay" and "Ellen D." They connect with the roots of womyn's music with a cover of Cris Williamson's "Shooting Star." They get your feet moving with the catchy "Disco (Feminist Dance Mix)." (Mr. Lady Records & Videos, Box 3189, Durham NC 27715-3189. email: mrlady@mindspring.com web: www.mrlady.com )

Cypher in the Snow: So, you have an STD... 7".

Three song single from Cypher. They make loud hard rock with trumpets and multiple vocalists. "The madness of a simple red light" involves sending a woman out to get food, and she kills a squirrel. "Scabies" is naturally about that parasite. "Regression" starts quieter, muted trumpet with spoken words, other instruments slowly entering and building. I interpret it as being about an old woman looking back on life. (Bad Monkey Records, 473 North St., Oakland CA 94609 email: monkey@badmonkey.com web: www.badmonkey.com )

Cyryus: The Lyricist CD.

This is a hip-hop CD on Queercorps records. Cyryus, who is a female MC, can flow and the tracks are intricate and hypnotic. On the track "The Immaculate Deception," there is a spoken sample from Bishop Carl Bean, who recorded the song "I was born this way," a gay pride song released on Motown Records. There are also a couple tracks where Cyryus trades rhymes with Nikki. (Queercorps Records, web: www.queercorps.com)

DJ Sprinkles' Deeperama Presents: "Sloppy 42nds" 12" EP.

DJ Sprinkles (aka Terre Thaemlitz) was a DJ at Sally's II in Times Square, New York in 1991. This record is inspired by that time. Rather than the deep house that DJ Sprinkles spun, this music uses the tonalities of house (II-I-V-I chord structures, piano chords, synth sounds, flutes) and fucks them up into new configurations. (comatonse web: www.comatonse.com)

God Shave the Queen! CD: Ten songs sung by 10 drag queens.

Among those here: Miss "Lady" Bunny, hostess of Wigstock, with "The Pussycat Song"; Varla Jean Merman gives an operatic reading of "White Rabbit"; Joey Arias performs in a vocal style reminiscent of Billie Holliday an original song of his own composition, "No One Knows." The other performers are Donna Giles, Antony, Pussy Tourette, Sherry Vine, Lily of the Valley, Raven-O, and Ebony Jet.

Web: http://www.lmgnyc.com/godshN.htm Swoon Records, Distributed by Proper Dist, 212 W 27th St #401, NY NY 10001. 212-479-7374. email: nevprop@inch.com

Sarah Greenwood: 24 Hour Shift CD.

Six-song CD from New York-based vocalist/guitarist Greenwood and her band. The record opens with off-key piano, soon overwhelmed by crunchy power chords over syncopated drum beats of "Waiting for you," which also has one of the EP's most lyrically specific moments when the narrator refers to her lover as a "manipulating whore." "Leaving Me Out" alternates atmospheric verses with a slow but heavier chorus. "Slide" is a song a strung-out person, with a wild, impossible 5/4 groove that proves the band's musical facility. "As It Is" heads in a quiter acoustic guitar direction. "Downsize" brings to mind Fugazi, from the active bass, and rhythmic guitar. The CD finishes off with a Serge Gainsbourg cover, "Je suis venu te dire que je m'envais," an evocative montage of piano and vocals, with a soprano and cafe sounds in the background. (Bonobo Records, 332 Bleecker St. Suite K100, NY, NY 10014. $12 ppd, checks to Sarah Greenwood.)

Harum Scarum 7".

This is hardcore punk - loud, fast, and brash, made by women. "Corporate Pennies" is about evil landlords; "I like you" starts with the words "The dyke community has suffered from immunity to civility"; "Bible Belt" is about the religious right; "Cabaret" I'm guessing is about cabaret licenses, the lack of which is used to shut down venues. There's lyrics on the sleeve for those who want to determine their own interpretations. (Live Transmission, Box 14284 S. E., Portland, OR 97293-0284)

Join the Queercorps 12".

A record of techno remixes of queercore songs. Jack Acid and Chris Polaris start things off with an original song called "Join the Queercorps" with breakbeats and samples from "Welcome to the Dollhouse" (the "lesbo, lesbo" scene.) 680x0 remixes the Mukilteo Fairies, putting them through a digital woodchipper. Christoph de Bablon remixes Team Dresch, but only vocal fragments of the original are recognizable. K.O. remixes Behead the Prophet NLSL, cranking the speed up and adding a fast breakbeat, scratches, and a "Satan is ever ready to seduce us" spoken sample. By the way, Queercorps is the new label by Matt of Outpunk. (Queercorps, web: www.queercorps.com email: corps@sirius.com)

Miranda July: The Binet-Simon Test CD.

Spoken-word performances where Miranda July channels the voices of authority and subjugation. A woman is the subject of a government test she's supposed to forget about. A TV talk show about children who donUt feel pain. A tester asks questions. A radio show where people call to tell their secrets. These brief descriptions are only a faint glimmer of the scenarios played out in these sonic movies. (Kill Rock Stars, 120 NE State Ave. PMB #418 (must put PMB), Olympia, WA 98501 Web: http://www.killrockstars.com)

Lesbian American Composers CD.

A collection of music by contemporary lesbian composers. Much of the work involves vocal components, which foregrounds the issues of sexuality more than is the case with CRI's two collections of music by gay male composers. The liner notes include autobiographical writing by the composers. Pauline Oliveros' "Poem of Change" uses sounds of World War II, accordian, and spoken words regarding political change. Nurit Tilles offers a romantic ragtime piece. Linda Montano's "Self Portrait" embodies Sappho and allows us to imagine her as a human being. Lori Freedman and Marilyn Lerner collaborate on an improvisational piece for piano and half clarinet (presumably the half with a reed.) Paula M. Kimper is the composer of "I Want To Live," a duet from the lesbian-themed opera Patience & Sarah. Eve Beglarian's piece uses the slowed sounds of a whale baleen wolf chaser, electronically manipulated. Jennifer Higdon's "running the edgE" features flute and strummed piano in a scherzo. Annea Lockwood's "I Give You Back" is a piece for solo soprano with a text from Joy Harjo, a member of the Creek Tribe. Madelyn Byrne's "Winter" is made from electronically manipulated sounds of bowed cymbals and voice. Ruth Anderson's "Sum" is a sound collage made from TV commercial samples. While these musicians are labeled "composers," I think there is actually not so much distance between their music and that of the other experimental musicians reviewed here. People should not be intimidated by the word "composer," since this music is comprehendable and enjoyable. (CRI, 73 Spring Street, Suite 506, New York, NY 10012-5800. web: www.composersrecordings.com)

Low-End Models: Too Tight to be Straight CD.

Low-End Models is an all-dyke queercore band from Germany (so far as is known, the only one in Germany.) Some songs are in German, some in English, and even one in French. There's definite queer content in German-language songs such as "Ungehaltene Rede" - "ihr sagt das ist krank wenn sie als frau eine frau liebt.S The English-language song "Not Maybe" is about abusive men who are free while women are imprisoned for fighting back. They make both loud, tight rock songs and quieter songs like the 6/8 "Pour toi Carine." Definitely worth seeking out! (Low-End Models, Steprathstrasse 9, D- 51103 Kln, Germany. email: ines_baumann@fem-k.rhein-main.de web: http://www.low-end-models.de)

Matmos: Quasi-Objects CD.

On this second CD from the duo Matmos, unusual sound sources are transmuted through musical means into musical gold. The opening track uses balloons and whoopee cushions, one track is made of walkie-talkie interference, andother is entirely samples of human bodies, and the final track uses the sounds of a wet latex t-shirt. Some tracks use conventional instruments like guitar and banjo, but played in unconventional ways and resampled. If it will help convince you to listen to Matmos, Bjork had them do remixes for her song "Alarm Call." (Vague Terrain, 2710 20th St., San Francisco, CA 94110. email: mcess@slip.net)

Glen Meadmore: Hot Horny & Born Again CD.

Finally a new CD from queer country punk Glen Meadmore. Glen and his band rock on up-tempo country songs with topics ranging from glory holes and blow jobs to Jesus. It takes an expansive mind and musical talent to wrap around such a wide range of influences. Several of the tracks were featured in the film Hustler White. Plus a cover portrait of Glen by his late penpal, John Wayne Gacy. (Pervertidora Records, Box 192350, SF CA 94105. web: www.pervertidora.com )

Milkshake CD (various artists).

A CD compilation to benefit the Harvey Milk Institute, which offers community education classes. Among the bands represented on this Cd are Extra Fancy, 7th Betty, 100 Watt Smile, Red House Painters, Brown-Star, Phranc, Pansy Division, !Tang, Simon Stinger, Blue Period, Omewenne, Spackle, Knife in Water, Perch, and Chumbawamba. It's quite a coup that this compilation manages to include unreleased tracks from Red House Painters and Extra Fancy, and a live version of Chumba's "Homophobia," plus many other unreleased tracks.
(timmi-kat ReCORDS, p.o. box 156, Denair, CA 95316)
web: http://www.myspace.com/timmikat
email: timmikat@hotmail.com

Momus: The Little Red Songbook CD.

I know plenty of people, who while not homosexual, don't really deserve the appelation of "straight." I think Momus deserves entre into the coterie of honorary queers. He certainly makes a strong bid with the song "How to spot an invert" (lyric: "The invert, our hero, is the male sex/ Release two point zero/ Upgrade today!/ You too may be gay.") Not to mention songs from his immense back catalog, such as "The Homosexual" and "Bishonen." He writes electronic pop songs which are hits in Japan, full of clever lyrics and intricate arrangements. The theme of this album is "Analog Baroque," and harpsichord and something which is either a kazoo or a shawm feature prominently in the arrangements. Plus there are Karaoke versions of ten songs, for which you can write your own parody lyrics and enter in a contest. (Le Grand Magistery, Box 611, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48303. Web: www.imomus.com

Moss: Sodomy CD.

The credits say "all words and music (c) Moss" so I guess this is a one-person effort, but the guitar, bass and drums gel together in a rock-band type way. The title song is about a guy who claims to be straight but likes sodomy. "In Stiches" is about homophobic humor and violence. "Skinny" is about looksism. "Am I Dead" recalls the Pixies, with its interleaved quiet acoustic guitar and distorted choruses. "Tapeworm" is a rapid-fire ode to parasites. "Francine" is a change of page, a tin pan alley-type song wih synth accompaniment. "The Trick" is about an unequal relationship. Things get a little silly with songs like "(Everything I know I learned from my) Iguana" and the Beastie-esque "Death and Dismemberment" (about insurance policies). "Don't make me go to bed" is a list-song of things yet to do. "Sodomy" brings to mind other one-man band projects like the first Big Black and Pansy Division records, and hopefully weUll hear more from Moss. (Moss, 114 Chestnut Ave, Narberth, PA 19072) web: http://www.voicenet.com/~moss/sodomy.html email: moss@voicenet.com

The Need with Joe Preston & DJ Zena: "Hi-Fi" 10" EP.

On this record, Radio and Rachel are joined by Joe Preston of the Thrones and DJ Zena. To put a genre on it, math-rock - the diagnosis due to the shifting time signatures and counted-out sections. "Vaselina" switches between a bombastic, bass-driven counted section and a 6/8 bridge, interspersed with bleeps and ending with a section of muttering voices. "Talk Potty" ends with an instrumental section where DJ Zena scratches and everyone goes wild. (Up Records, POB 21328, Seattle, WA 98111-3328 web: http://www.subpop.com/up/)

Pansy Division: "Absurd Pop Song Romance".

Now a four-piece, Pansy Division achieve their potential on this, their - is this really their sixth?! - and best record. The album opener "February 17" is a pop-punk song worthy of the Buzzcocks. Even though a big part of the attraction is the more rocking new two-guitar lineup, there's also innovation in the form of strings on "Glenview." Since P.D. have already proved they can sing about explicit gay sex, they donUt beat a dead horse here and go for a more subtle approach in the lyrics, but without making things vague and closety like so many queer musicians. Rewind your CD past the beginning to hear a secret track (there was also one on their last CD). There's a certain group of people out there who are convinced that Pansy Division sucks, but they should hear this record and/or see the new lineup before passing judgement. (Lookout Records) Pansy Division, Box 460885, SF CA 94146-0885. web: www.pansydivision.com

Pavlov's Dog cassette.

Before they broke up, punk band Pavlov's Dog recorded this 8-song cassette. Most of their songs are in the hardcore tempo range - very energetic - you can imagine the fun youUd have slamming to these tunes. Vocal duties are shared by Myles (a guy) and Jamie (a woman). Fortunately there is a lyric sheet so we can find out what the songs are about. "Throw Bricks, Form Cliques" is about the insularity of the punk scene; "Enemies" is about bigoted people; "Stifled" is about homophobes; "Manhole" (sung by Jamie) is about refusing to be a boy toy; the last song is Myles taking on the classic "My Boyfriend's Back." (Myles, 117 Fairmount Ave, Phila, Pa 19123, web: http://www.mylesofdestruction.com

Julie Ruin CD.

It's no big secret that Julie Ruin is Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill's solo project. Self-produced, with loops under her vocals. You might think from the title/chorus of "I wanna Know What Love Is" that it's just a pop love song, but it's about cops and serial killers both being part of the same anti-woman system. And in other songs here she subverts the generally apolitical nature of pop music in a similar fashion. This extends Kathleen's history of empowerment by example, and I hope this inspires more people to learn to make their own solo recordings. (Kill Rock Stars, 120 NE State Ave. #418, Olympia, WA 98501 Web: http://www.killrockstars.com)

Sherman Electric: "Asteroids" CD.

The keyboards in Sherman Electric that give a Stereolab or Cars-esque tinge to their pop-punk songs. There's something playful about songs about watching cartoons, or even a tune like "Army of Love" which says Rbrother to brother/we love one another/ and it's easy to tell/ that we all smell.S Singer/guitarist Bil Sherman used to be in the band Lucifag and did the comic zine "Naked teenagers that fight crime." (3149 Pillsbury Ave South, Mpls, MN 55408)

Sister Friction: Glamour... My Ass! CD.

Quirky synth-pop with off-beat, in some cases unrhymed lyrics. "Asexual" is about a would-be sex partner who's actually a turnoff. "What's Love" sings the praises of older men as lovers over a spooky backing layered with rhythms. "Maleman" is about a postal employee, told with plenty of double entendre. (Box 421152, Minneapolis, MN 55442-1152 email: friction@visi.com web: www.visi.com/~friction )

Sister Spit: I Spit On Your Country CD.

Sister Spit is a group of women spoken word performers who have toured the U.S. This is a recording of a performance in San Francisco by 10 of the women of Sister Spit - Harriet Dodge, Eileen Myles, Michelle Tea, Sara Seinberg, Marci Blackman, Samuel Topiary, Ali Liebegott, Sini Anderson, Tara Jepsen, and Cherie Lee Bombadier. (Mouth Almighty) [note: company is out of business. New Sister Spit CD is coming out on Mr. Lady. web: http://www.sisterspit.org

Snowpony: The Slow-motion World of Snowpony CD.

Undulating bass/guitar/drums grooves utilizing resampling and loops with Katherine's scary calm vocals over the top. Katherine used to be in Stereolab and bassist Deb was in My Bloody Valentine, and they carry on the danceable pop experimentalism legacies of both those bands. I havenUt quite figured out "A Way to Survive," but I think it's in 7/4 - what could be more experimental than that? (Radioactive Records. web: www.radioactive.net)

Sta-Prest: "Form Fitting"/"Diffy Peeps" 7".

This release is part of Kill Rock Stars' Mailorder Freak 7" singles club, but dilligent consumers should be able to find copies. Sta-Prest's music is political new wave sounds. "Form Fitting" says "I like style without content," no doubt sarcastically. "Diffy Peeps" is about an identity politician whose identity changes from day to day. There's a surprising and exciting musical coda. (Kill Rock Stars, 120 NE State Ave. #418, Olympia, WA 98501 Web: http://www.killrockstars.com)

The Third Sex: The No Heart 7".

With two vocalists who both sing at the same time and also swap bass and guitar duties, The Third Sex make some complex music. "Maul 10.09.97" is about going to see bands play, and seeing an ex-girlfriend. "Sauvie" is nearly whispered, a song to a lover. "Shark suit" is about having the hots for a woman who wears a sharkskin suit. Plus there's two more songs on this 7". They will have a second full length CD out on Mr. Lady in 1999. (Mr. Lady Records & Videos, Box 3189, Durham NC 27715-3189. email: mrlady@mindspirng.com web: www.mrlady.com )

12 Rods: Split Personalities CD.

12 Rods seem to have a bit of a fascination with homosexuality, having titled an earlier EP "Gay?" Among the 10 tracks of anthemic rock songs (flavored with tasty synth blips) on this CD is "I wish you were a girl," which is about a guy trying to resolve feelings about another guy. I really enjoy their music, which is envigorating and cathartic. One clue to their sonic roots is that one of the band members ran a My Bloody Valentine web page. (V2 Records, 14 East 4th St, NY NY 10012. web: www.12rods.com)

Ultra-Red: Ode to Johnny Rio 12".

Ambient music using sounds recorded at Griffith Park. Inspired by John Rechy's book about cruising for sex, Numbers. There are sounds of nature, of cars, of car radios, and of voices. There are extensive liner notes exploring the concepts of the recording, including cars as a signifier of class. (Comatonse Recordings, 1097-B 54th St, Oakland, CA 9468-3018. web: www.comatonse.com/ultrared)

The Velvet Mafia: We Know Where You Live CD.

Queer rock band fronted by Dean Johnson (Rock n Roll Fag Bar, formerly of Dean and the Weenies.) The lyrics are clever, bellowed over the music but bouyed by backing vocalists. The band's name is explained by a song also called The Velvet Mafia, the subject (or should I say target) of which are that gay entertainment biz cabal that includes the likes of Davis Geffen and Bary Diller. "Mona Lisa" carries to its logical conclusion the revelation that the famous painting may be a self-portrait of Leonardo - "Mona Lisa is a drag queen." Add to that odes to Deli boys and Jersey Gigolos, and you've got a full menu of fun queer rock. (Trip Records, Box 193, Woolwich, ME 04579. web: www.tripnet.com email: info@tripnet.com)

Rufus Wainwright: self-titled CD.

Rufus writes piano-centered, quiet songs about such topics as the ladies of opera, what he has and hasn't inherited from his mother, and love songs. There is a nostalgic aesthetic, from the musical forms which harken back to tin pan alley, the silent movie tinkling of tack pianos, the collaged paper, faded antique colors, and elegant typography of the CD booklet. Of course,Wainwright is too young for this nostalgia to be for a remembered era, but a longing for a less complicated age is the likely explanation. While permenant disengagement from the world is not a politically expedient course, an occasional escapist retreat can refresh one for reengagement with the forces of modernity. (Dreamworks. web: www.dreamworksrec.com/rufus)

Not yet heard:

The Aluminum Group: Plano CD. The CD has songs such as "Sad Gay Life" and "The Matachine Society." (Minty Fresh)

Klaus Nomi CD-EP. Two unreleased songs by Nomi, "Za Bak Daz" and "Silent Night." (email: gyelliott@hotmail.com web: http://www.heliocd.com/)

Phranc: Milkman CD. New CD by the jewish lesbian folksinger. ( NEW URL: www.pholksinger.com )

Jack Smith: Les Evening Gowns Damnees CD. Spoken word by performance artist and filmmaker Jack Smith, with music by Tony Conrad and others. (Audio Artkive. )

Team Dresch/Longstocking split 7". Limited edition for Sub Pop's Singles Club (Sub Pop)

Three Dollar Bill: Getting to Know You CD. Queer grrrl & boy homo band with 6-song CD. $8 ppd. (Box 13167, Chicago, IL 60613 email: THRDOLLAR@AOL.COM) Full review in QZE 17. website: www.ThreeDollar.net

Weird Little Boy CD. A multi-media collaboration by people including Chris Cochrane, Nayland Blake, and Dennis Cooper (Avant)