Hello, dear Salient reader. My name is Rachael and I’m here to assist you all in tearing down the patriarchy – via music. First of all, let’s clear this up – I am (mostly) a big homo. I am an angry feminist. And I listen to music almost all of the time. Turning my bright red Sony Walkman off, for any reason, is basically a heartbreaking experience for me. So I decided that the logical thing for me to write about would be queer music.
Often the first names that spring to mind when queer music is mentioned are Elton John and kd lang. But talented homos are present across all genres of music. I’m just going to list a few of my favourite “alternative” queer artists, such as Limp Wrist, Peaches and Tribe 8.
The all-gay, straight edge, hardcore band, Limp Wrist, state that they “put the ‘core’ back into Queercore”. Limp Wrist came to New Zealand a few months ago and, resplendent in leather chaps, wowed us all – especially with their famous song ‘I Love Hardcore Boys, I Love Boys Hardcore’. Limp Wrist are open and proud in a way that is almost confrontational about their sexual identities. They often ask the audience if they identify as ‘homos’, don’t tolerate homophobic comments or behaviour at their shows, and almost always incorporate nudity and homoeroticism into their live acts.
Peaches is an artist who also tends to feature homoeroticism in her music and live performances – though her audiences are likely to be left feeling spookily turned on by the thiry-nine year old ex-music teacher, than particularly challenged. After seeing her perform at this year’s Big Day Out in Auckland, one reviewer was so taken that she stated “Peaches has become my new hero. She was damn cool – her costumes, dances, and songs all exuded female power”.
Peaches’ lyrics are mostly concerned with her construction of a strong, non-submissive female bisexuality, such as in the song ‘I U She’, where she raps, “I don’t need to make a choice, I like girls and I like boys”. When faced with accusations of ‘penis envy’, Peaches is quoted as saying she prefers the term “hermaphrodite envy” – as “there is so much male and female in us all”.
While some listeners may find Peaches a little grotesque or crude (with song titles such as ‘Fuck The Pain Away’, ‘Tent In Your Pants’, and ‘Shake Yer Dix’) – the way in which she challenges the ideas of compulsory heterosexuality and female “submissive” sexuality is both subversive and a shitload of fun.
When covering queer music, you can’t miss out Tribe 8 – an all-woman ‘dyke punk’ band. “We are San Francisco’s own all-dyke, all-out, in-your-face, blade-brandishing, gang castrating, dildo swingin’, bullshit-detecting, aurally pornographic, neanderthal-pervert band of patriarchy-smashing snatchlickers.” Tribe 8 may be a bit threatening to have a wide following, with songs such as ‘Gang Castrate’ suggesting that the cure for gang rape is to chop off the rapists’ balls. This theme is often presented on stage, in a symbolic act of mutilating rubber penises and throwing them around the crowd. On their anger, vocalist Lynn Breedlove says “Well, we’re angry because women have been raped and mutilated and oppressed for the last three thousand years. I’m only chopping off a rubber dick. I haven’t actually castrated anybody yet. But, yes, I say violence is okay if somebody is raping you and you kill them. I say that’s good.” Tribe 8’s stage antics often involve the audience interacting with Breedlove’s stage strap-on, topless lesbians running riot, and intense moshpits encouraged by the band. They’ve provoked protest from conservatives, feminists, and even the gay and lesbian community itself.
Despite this, they continue with their “patriarchy-smashing” mission. All I have to say on the matter is that I wish we had more “aurally pornographic snatch lickers” like Tribe 8 – even if the world at large may be threatened by symbolic acts of rapist-castration.
I’ve only covered a few rad queer alternative artists in this column, but there are heaps more out there. Le Tigre, Sigur Ros, Sleater-Kinney, Xiu Xiu, Antony and the Johnsons, The Dresden Dolls, Erase Errata, Morrissey, Lesbians on Ecstasy, Pansy Division, and (of course) Tegan and Sara are all pretty cool. And if you are aching for a place where you can show off your dance moves AND enjoy discovering queer alternative music – you should pop along to my (roughly) monthly dance party, Dance Syndrome. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to be advised of when the next one is coming up, or just keep an eye out for posters around campus!