Tag Archives: music

the most perfect song: “deceptacon” & activist fatigue

This is a post about “Deceptacon” by Le Tigre. Here is the music video:

You can read the lyrics to the “Deceptacon” here.

backstory
I discovered Kathleen Hanna & Bikini Kill through The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock, which I found at the library when I was about 12 and worked my way through systematically in my quest for Awesome Music. (This led me to discover most of the artists on Kill Rock Stars, because when I first got a computer capable of downloading & burning mp3s, I went through all of the independent music labels I knew of and downloaded their samples. This was during the three month period before I embraced Napster. OH, 2001, YOU WERE RAD AND SEEM SO ~STRANGE~ NOW.) I found out about Le Tigre through the , who is responsible for igniting the eternal flame that is my love of electronic music and, more relevantly, burned me a copy of Le Tigre’s self-titled album.

Then I got to college and found out, via , that “Deceptacon” was everyone’s favorite song to dance to at gay parties, a.k.a. parties thrown by various folks in Pride Alliance. It was the first time I’d encountered folks IRL who listened to all my wonderful feminist rock music, and hell yeah to that.

this song is so fucking meta
So, returning to lyrics. This song is about how people ignore the message of Le Tigre’s music, want Le Tigre to make catchy dance music, and guess what? this song is a catchy dance song.
Wanna disco? Wanna see me disco?
Let me hear you depoliticize my rhyme
One, two, three, four
You got what you been asking for

Well, they have catchy dance music. But it’s not content-free:
Yr so policy free and yr fantasy wheels and everything you think
And everything you feel is alright,
It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright

Nope, it’s a commentary on mainstream music listeners who like content-free music.

I used to like this song because it was a catchy song with feminism, but over the years, I’ve developed a more nuanced reading of it. I don’t like this song just because it’s catchy, or because it has political rhymes – I like it because it’s a catchy dance song about activist fatigue, and how futile and frustrating it can be to rail against an inescapable system like the patriarchy day after day, year after year, and still keep on going.
I take you home now watch me get you hot
Yr just a parrot when yr screaming
And yr shouting “More crackers please, more crackers please”
You want what you want but you don’t wanna be on yr knees
Who does your/ who does your hair?

Hanna is in charge, and she’s “tak[ing] you home” and “get[ing] you hot.” On the surface, this might seem like some pretty straightforward sexual innuendo, but it’s also an apt description of what her music is doing for “you.” Her music can be substituted for herself as the embodiment of “your” desire. But “you” (who can be read as singular, but I read as plural) can’t stop spewing the rhetoric they’ve been fed by society – by patriarchy. “You” feel entitled (sexually) to her in the same way “you” feel entitled to her music and “depoliticiz[ing] [her] rhymes.” Hanna, like a hairdresser, is seen as a woman in service, whether it’s sexual or as a musician.

Then there is the verse that made me hash out some nebulous ideas and write this post. This verse is pretty much my favorite verse in any song ever.
You bought a new van the first year of yr band
Yr cool and I hardly wanna say “not”
Because I’m so bored that I’d be entertained
Even by a stupid fuckin linoleum floor, linoleum floor
Yr lyrics are dumb like a linoleum floor
I’ll walk on it
I’ll walk all over you
Walk on it, walk on it, walking one, two
Who? Who? Who? Who?

I can’t find a citation for this Hanna quote, although I’ve seen it in print so I know it’s legit: “I hate the attitude of, ‘oh we already have a Lydia Lynch, so we don’t need a Bikini Kill.’ Well, there’s like 2 hundred million all male bands writing ‘baby baby i love you, let me drag you around on my ankle.’ Is that enough already?”
The “you” in this song has shifted from previous verses, and I read this new “you” as the league of male bands Hanna talks about above. Hanna is so bored by their bragging (their “new van” purchased in “the first year of [their] band”) that she can hardly even bring herself to object to it, which is, uh, so much this. Because the thing about patriarchy (kyriarchy)? It IS boring. After the first fires of incandescent rage against oppression, it can be really exhausting to take up the banner and keep fighting, because you’ve realized the essential truth that the societal structure and its embodiment in *isms might shift in manifestation but is never going to fucking change, it’s always going to be the same stupid shit over and over.
Even something as commonplace (in the US) as a linoleum floor is more interesting to Kathleen Hanna. And me, frankly.
Yr lyrics are dumb like a linoleum floor
I’ll walk on it
I’ll walk all over you

But, even though she’s tired and she’s bored, Hanna is still going to get up and rock the fuck on.

The chorus to “Deceptacon” initially appears nonsensical and pretty random. But it’s actually a rhetorical question to which Hanna alludes several times in the song.
Who took the Bomp from the Bompalompalomp?
Who took the Ram from the Ramalamading dong?
Who took the Bomp from the Bompalompalomp?
Who took the Ram from the Ramalamading dong?

It’s the same “who” to whom Hanna refers when she asks “who does your hair,” and it’s the same “who” as at the end of the previous verse:
Walk on it, walk on it, walking one, two
Who? Who? Who? Who?

Kathleen Hanna, as avatar of womanhood and avatar of feminism, is taking the bomp out of your bompalompalomp: she’s taking the fun out of your stupid music. Don’t like it? Too bad.

But don’t be surprised if you come for the catchy tunes and end up sticking around. They’re kind of new and innovative and stuff.

Just sayin’.

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books, latin, yum, vids

Hey y’all! Here are some random thoughts that are not necessarily a cohesive post:

– I just finished reading Paper Towns by John Green, which comes heartily recommended, but was a very difficult read for me because it’s set in my hometown. Clearly, O-town and I have issues.
– All my books just came to me from home! I want to reread everything. Especially Blankets (Craig Thompson), because it’s right next to me! Clearly, Olga has no focus.
– Regina Spektor is awesome.
– I have been reading and writing Latin again recently. Hello ambiguous feelings!
– I have also been yearning for Holmes and Watson to acknowledge their pure & deliciously gay love. Oh yeah. Are you in denial? Need a vid? Fever by talitha78 will help you out. (Link goes to the old version – editing is better than the remastered version!)
– Speaking of vids, if you like True Blood and/or Amanda Palmer, you will probably love Runs in the Family by mresundance. (Warning: LOTS of gore, and sex! But if you watch True Blood, these things should be self-evident.) On a more serious note, Afraid of Americans (vidder to be revealed) perfectly pairs David Bowie’s classic song with footage from Watchmen. “God is an American” has never seemed more unsettling or portentous, or been so deeply felt.

the teaches of peaches

PEACHES, HOLY CRAP. Best show of my life, hands down. And I have been to many shows. Just not ones so… freakin’ badass. She crowdsurfed! I touched her knee! Also, seeing Peaches in a pink leather one-piece with giant sleeves of the future, standing on top of the crowd, singing? Three feet away from my FACE? Amazing.

I have many thoughts about the teaches of peaches, many of which are not for this blog. But something I do want to blog about – women performers in nude jumpsuits. Throughout the show, Peaches took off layers of one-pieces/leotards (and added crazy capes/jackets/armwarmers depending on the song). Finally, she got down to a nude, sleeveless bodysuit (also a tiny belt which had a flashing LED over her clit – but hey, it’s Peaches). Nude without being nude.

This might not be a post on its own, but I have also been listening to the new Dragonette album a lot this week. The title song, “Fixin to Thrill,” happens to have an exceedingly awesome (fourth-wall-breaking!) video in which the frontwoman, Martina Sorbara, wears a tight nude shirt and tights, and draws her silhouette/features on her body.

I’m really intrigued by this revealing-without-revealing, especially when considering Peaches, who has historically been known for flashing a lot of skin. The video I’m embedding below is one of her tamer ones (she and Iggy Pop kill zombies!), and yet I still hesitated about linking to it because I don’t think any of her videos are safe for work (no criticism here!). Yet Peaches is wearing more than, say, Britney Spears or Lady Gaga in this video – she has on a jacket, bra, and hot pants, and keeps the jacket on for the first half of the video. Her body is not perfectly toned, although it would be harder to be more perfectly toned than Iggy Pop in any case. Her lyrics are often sexual; in this as in many other videos, she grabs her crotch to assert that point.

Why are we afraid of a sexuality that’s not for us, one that’s not about eliciting our desire but about asserting hers? If a man were performing this role, would we find it objectionable? Why do I feel better about embedding “Kick It” than the video for “Set It Off,” in which Peaches simulates masturbation and has visible (and progressively more ridiculous) pubic hair?

Why are we equally surprised by a body that is both offered to us and denied to us, like Martina Sorbara’s in the video for “Fixin to Thrill” or Peaches’ costumes last night? A body which refuses our gaze and/or mocks it?

Thinky thoughts, for sure.

One last note: The first zombie that Iggy Pop pushes off is a skinny, blonde girl in a revealing bikini with a perfect, tanned body. I can’t help but think that was a deliberate choice.

look! an on-topic post!

Shrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced.

Now, you want to become acquainted with a woman you see in public. The first thing you need to understand is that women are dealing with a set of challenges and concerns that are strange to you, a man. To begin with, we would rather not be killed or otherwise violently assaulted.

“But wait! I don’t want that, either!”

Well, no. But do you think about it all the time? Is preventing violent assault or murder part of your daily routine, rather than merely something you do when you venture into war zones? Because, for women, it is. When I go on a date, I always leave the man’s full name and contact information written next to my computer monitor. This is so the cops can find my body if I go missing. My best friend will call or e-mail me the next morning, and I must answer that call or e-mail before noon-ish, or she begins to worry. If she doesn’t hear from me by three or so, she’ll call the police. My activities after dark are curtailed. Unless I am in a densely-occupied, well-lit space, I won’t go out alone. Even then, I prefer to have a friend or two, or my dogs, with me. Do you follow rules like these?

So when you, a stranger, approach me, I have to ask myself: Will this man rape me?

Yeah.

My AWESOME housemate got us tickets to see Peaches on Friday. I am really excited. I feel like there is a post about Peaches forthcoming on this blog. But not today. Instead, I will link you to this ridiculous video (not entirely safe for work?), in which Peaches sings and Feist makes out with a bicycle. Seriously. They used to be roommates.

My mother got me this book for Christmas:

no wave post-punk

I enjoyed it; I’ve always liked no wave. I started listening to music before I had regular internet access, so I turned, as ever, to books . Rolling Stone’s Women in Rock and Alec Foege’s Confusion is Next, a history of Sonic Youth, were the two volumes that guided my listening selections as a young teenager. I don’t even remember how I found Sonic Youth, but my suspicion is that they were a recommendation from my librarian, Tom. The library had an extensive CD collection, where I discovered Joy Division and the Pixies, among others.

As a result of Confusion is Next, I listened to Sun Ra and His Solar Arkestra alongside Hole, PJ Harvey, Sonic Youth, and Blink 182. I can’t claim that my choices were the result of a sophisticated ear or a precocious musical palate, but I enjoyed all of them. The first song I ever downloaded from the internet was Lydia Lunch and Rowland S. Howard’s “What is Memory,” which was a free mp3 download somewhere. (I had about three weeks of self-righteous glory in refusing to illegally download music after my family got internet at home. Then I caved and installed Napster.) So the stars of no wave and I have had a long musical history.

No Wave: Post-Punk. Underground. New York. 1976-1980. is an excellent oral and photographic history of that time period. It captures what I had known (or been able to conceive of, at 13 or 14): the grittiness, poverty, dirtiness of New York in the late seventies and early eighties.

Lydia Lunch was 16 and 17 at the zenith of the no wave scene. I was surprised to discover that I’ve been unwittingly aping her style, decades in the future.

The thing that I always loved, and which always fascinated me about no wave, was the wealth of strong, brash women making music and involved in the scene. Lydia Lunch, although she might have been the teen queen bee, was far from an exception. The untutored sound of many no wave bands was what invited in their members, many of whom had never played an instrument before. Lunch, Ikue Mori, Pat Place, Barbara Ess, Adele Bertai, and Nancy Arlen were just a few of the women in the bands that comprised the no wave scene.

Of course, as I always do, I exhausted my library resources and requested a number of related books to read. You call it what you want; I’ll call it distraction from the stress of the academic year. I also bought Rome ’78, a film starring many no wave regulars, because I couldn’t find it through any lending venue. As it turns out, the movie is out of print, but it’s available on DVD from Don of Subterranean Cinema for a reasonable price.

Tonight, I am listening to Telefon Tel Aviv, an IDM ensemble who are not really related to this post at all.