The final product above, as published in April 2016.
The Drones later shared the cover on their Facebook page, which was very sweet. Glad they liked it.
The final product above, as published in April 2016.
The Drones later shared the cover on their Facebook page, which was very sweet. Glad they liked it.
I took High Fidelity as my holiday reading when I realised I’d already read all the other Penguin Classics in the airport bookshop. High Fidelity is the story of a 30-something deadbeat who decides his life is over as his long-term girlfriend leaves him because he’s a massive, whingey, manipulative jerk. After some soul searching, mainly centred around tearing down the other deadbeats who frequent his failing record store and having awkward sex with a folk musician, he contacts all the women who have dumped him in the past in an attempt to find out what it is that makes him a deadbeat – and maybe even fix it.Continue reading BOOK REVIEW: Nick Hornby, High Fidelity (1995), 06.02.16
Some time ago Pelican Magazine interviewed me relating to their Space edition’s cover, featuring the Drones’ frontman Gareth Liddiard. It’s soft and vague and I talk a bit about being queer and being a cartoonist in it, and you’ll see some art I haven’t shared elsewhere.
Thank you Claudia, Kate, Ruth and all the Pelican crew for giving us artists so many opportunities, and for using such a soft filter on my face.
Authors: Brett Morgen with Richard Bienstock
1/2 of a star
This is the accompanying coffee-table book to the most recent Kurt Cobain biopic of the same title, and that a film about Cobain has a coffee-table book should tell you all you need to know about it. But just in case you’re the kind of scum inclined to spend fifty bucks on a Nirvana conversation piece, let’s look closer. Continue reading BOOK REVIEW: Cobain: Montage Of Heck, Based On The Acclaimed Documentary Film (2015)
Director: Don Hardy Jr
Starring: The Residents
The Residents, for the uninitiated, are that band your weirdo friend tried to impress on you at your weakest moment – drunk, high, hungover – late at that one party. You barely remember anything about them apart from jerky images, eyeballs in suits and dissonant but strangely soothing music; or else you’re their biggest fan and one of those people in desperate search of the next weirdest thing to impress your musically jaded friends with the sheer breadth of your taste.
In the interest of disclosure, I am that friend.Continue reading FILM REVIEW: Theory Of Obscurity – A Film About The Residents (2015)
Director: Asif Kapadia
Starring: Amy Winehouse
Winehouse obsessive Asif Kapadia’s documentary hits cinemas four years after the star’s early death. What felt in equal parts shocking, mysterious and inevitable in 2011 has been largely left alone apart from the usual hyenas picking over tragic deaths for tasty morsels and giggles, and – for the most part – Kapadia’s narrative marks a relief from that, although the shadow of ‘too soon’ is still stands long over the footage. Continue reading FILM REVIEW: Amy (2015)
So you want to change the world. In the words of Joe Strummer, “You gotta give it all you got, or forget it,” and he’d know: their protest song, ‘Rock The Casbah’, became their highest charting single worldwide, and you know all the lyrics, don’t you? If the revolution can only come about with majority (as in the precious democracy, the commune and the anarchist ideal) then major media is the only way to create it. Yeah, the Slits gave power to women who didn’t subscribe to the norm in ‘Typical Girls’, but who got women chanting “Who run the world? Girls!” in clubs across the world? Beyoncé was top ten in Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Scotland, South Korea, and multi-platinum in Australia and Canada.
There are four chief costs of the popularist protest, anchored in the very axes that make them effective. The first and most obvious is the suffocation of meaning – to write a popular song you have to exploit popular thought at the risk of excluding a wider audience. The concept behind your song must be accessible – and agreeable – to all. Forget ‘return the engines of capital to the workers’, forget ‘abortion is a right’, even forget ‘examine the over-representation of blackness in prison communities’ – the most radical message you’ll find here is ‘Where Is The Love?’, the Black Eyed Peas 2003 protest against… something? Similarly, Twisted Sister’s hyper-generalised protest song ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ has been covered by dozens of punk bands in three different languages, including a version by the Veronicas used in an ad campaign for birth control pill Yaz. It’s the ultimate malleable teen protest song, one that lead singer Dee Snider proudly embraces: “Any time that the team is down by two, or somebody had a bad day at the office, they’re gonna stand up and sing We’re Not Gonna Take It.”
You can declare and declaw more specifically too – like that one song about the Troubles you already know all the words to, ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ by U2, a song deliberately cut back to a version so non-partisan that, played to a Belfast crowd of 3000, Bono states “about three walked out.” Your cause now barely exists, but the passion is wide-spread and real – or gruesomely appropriated by your enemies, the next risk you face: seeing your words used to support a cause you stand against. UK pop political rock band the Manic Street Preachers tried this with their UK #1 ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’, inspired by Welsh protesters involved in the Spanish Civil War but in practice only outcrying “fascists” and whatever the intolerable “this” is, and were rewarded by inclusion on a British National Party website – essentially the fascists they deplored.
The third cut of this approach is your cause being reduced to a catchy tune: did you know Prince’s ‘1999’ was about nuclear war and dystopia? If you don’t want to declaw your protest, piggyback the catchiest tune you can imagine and repurpose that instead. Take Bob Marley’s 1983 posthumous release ‘Buffalo Soldier’, a protest against anti-black racism in America that you know the lyrics to already. Or Nena’s ’99 Luftballons’, a hit fit for Eurovision describing the accidental triggering of nuclear war off the back of a military radar picking up childrens’ balloons, or Jay Z’s ’99 Problems’, a dialogue about anti-black racism experienced by the artist on a daily basis hung off a brilliant, catchy hook. Closer to home, Cold Chisel’s 1978 ‘Khe Sanh’, a song touted as a second Australian anthem, is an unflinching portrait of a shell-shocked Vietnam veteran framed by a famous riff.
Your final kickback from the popularist is reduction – a popular protest song may mug your other songs, just as an otherwise mainstream artist suddenly producing a protest song looks fake and bizarre (see Macklemore’s ‘Same Love’ in 2012, a rare gem with its widespread popularity attributable to its accessibility and timeliness around Referendum 74, legalising same-sex marriage in Washington). Have you heard Cypress Hill’s protest songs like ‘Riot Starter’ – did you know they created protest songs, or do you just know ‘Insane In The Brain’ (which, in turn, samples James Brown’s ‘I’m Black And I’m Proud’, an unofficial anthem of the Black Power movement; but you’re probably more familiar with ‘I Got You (I Feel Good)’).
The protest song that is accessible is the protest song that is effective: you’ll reach new ears and allies, even in the camps of your enemies. You can change the world at the cost of changing minds, become a figurehead at the cost of your reputation as an artist. Is it worth it?
Yes. Yes. Yes.
First published in Pelican Magazine, #86 Edition 3, May 2015, p 31.
American Idiot, Green Day (Reprise, 2004)
I bought my first album, American Idiot, in 2005. Yes, a decade has passed where American Idiot exists, there are fifth graders who have never known a world without American Idiot. I was 14 and I bought it for $20 of Christmas money from Sanity because I liked the title track. I listened to it addictively for over a year, idolising this ‘Saint Jimmy’ character and his politically enraged partner ‘Whatsername’, and relating strongly to lyrics like, “where will all the martyrs go when the virus kills itself / and where will we all go when it’s too late?” – shit’s deep. Listening to nothing but Green Day’s American Idiot through my formative years lead my 14 year old self to dark places from internet forums on political anarchism and narcotic drugs, to buying a Green Day poster for half price from the local record store when it closed down in 2006 and painting anarchy As on my converse sneakers in puff paint. Several of my friends claim that they enjoyed Green Day as teenagers, but none of them liked American Idiot. Wait, did you want me to say it’s crap in hindsight? Fuck off. They might have only use four chords and ripped off all that was holy, but Green Day introduced me to punk, political resistance and the idea that I mattered. I still think it’s fucking great. Happy 10th Anniversary Saint Jimmy. Ⓐ
First published by Pelican Magazine Issue 86 Edition 1, 2015. Conceptualised and complied by music editor Hugh Manning. You can read the rest of this article with submissions by Bridget Rumball, Laurent Shervington and Lauren Crosser on Issuu below, page 31. The featured artwork was completed in black ink.
‘Literary Taboo Illustration’ by Richard Moore, ink, 2014.
First published in Pelican Magazine Ed 4 Vol 85.
OPINION ARTICLE: ‘PUNK: A SECRET HISTORY’ (MINORITY EMPOWERMENT IN 1970S PUNK)
First published by Pelican Magazine Edition 5 Volume 85 July 2014
I am in a bathroom at a punk show when he shoves me on his way out, sneering through his matted beard: ‘Doin’ your hair, ya little faggot?’ and I’m growing tired of this. With no place in mainstream culture alternative scenes should be our last refuge but growing hostility and violence on the borders makes these spaces dangerous as well, has been – say the older punks around me – for years. A friend asks me why I persist with it, and the answer is the same it’s always been: because punk’s secret history is my last refuge in the past.
Punk, finding its origins in a few short years between 1972 and 1978, is better known today for the American hardcore scene that rose from its ashes, one of hyper-masculinity, violent pits and ear-tearing sound. Even the bands which survived England’s punk exodus are idols of white male heterosexuality: the Clash with their studied sneers and posturing, the Sex Pistols with the blood of a blinded girl and Nancy Spungen on Sid Vicious’ hands. But the origins of punk look different.
“I never knew there was a law against sounding vulnerable,” Pete Shelley, founding member of Manchester’s Buzzcocks and out bisexual, says of the movement in an interview with the Quietus, close to the spirit of punk. Reacting to the 1970s music scene, dominated by Gary Glitter, Rod Stewart and Led Zeppelin, punk squirted its way through the cracks of the New York art scene off the backs of Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground. Transvestite band the New York Dolls staggered easily into this scene, with the Ramones, Television, Detroit black protopunk trio Death and all-female band the Runaways hot on their platform heels. Malcolm McLaren, future manager of the Sex Pistols, was not far behind, managing heroin addicts the New York Dolls for a short time before their inevitable self-destruction. Meanwhile, young punk Lance Loud, already famous for coming out as gay on reality TV in 1973, wrote to Andy Warhol on the regular. Theresa Kereakes, editor of Lobotomy Magazine along with Kid Congo Powers, Pleasant Gehman and Randy De Troit jokes on her website, “In retrospect, is it OK to joke that Lobotomy was run by 2 fags and 2 hags? Nobody’s sexuality mattered to us…” Easily visible in the scene now were figures like Jayne County, Stonewall veteran and transsexual activist, and Elton Motello with their gay punk anthem ‘Jet Boy Jet Girl’. On the dark, closeted periphery the Germs frontman and addict Darby Crash gathered a legion of groupies held in perpetual platonic dependency such as Hellin Killer and Trudie Plunger, as Crash kept his homosexuality secret until after his suicide by heroin overdose in 1980, his grave spat on by his worshipping fans. In England’s Dreaming, Jon Savage’s history of punk rock, Jane Suck, a lesbian music writer daunted by the male aggression of the 70s music industry and turning to speed for recourse, admits: “Once I started injecting I didn’t have to worry about my sexuality. I became asexual, I think many people were, it was an incredibly asexual movement.”
A female punk scene quickly erupted from the stage set by New York. Jade Zebest, LA punk and editor of magazine Generation X, says in an interview with the Bags singer Alice Bag: “I think that the equality of the first female punks was due, in part, to the role that gay men played in early punk… they were not seeing women as sexual objects but as equals… which was unusual in the 1970’s Rock World.” Of course some female punks have remained in the public consciousness: Patti Smith screams over her mad poetry and Joan Jett plays on mainstream radio while Vivienne Westwood continues to parade the catwalks in 2014. But there’s a bigger picture to female punk than they’re given. Dinah Cancer of 45 Grave, Vox Pop and Nervous Gender notes to Bag, “We girls fought hard for our spots. The punk scene has been and still is an All boys scene.” All-female bands like the Bags, the Go-Gos, and the Speed Queens abounded in the US, while in the UK plastic goddess Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex roared out anti-sexism riot ‘Oh Bondage Up Yours!’ and the Slits, grimy adolescent girls, howled ballad to female oppression ‘Typical Girls’ on tour with the Sex Pistols. In Germany Nina Hagen tore through addict opera punk ‘TV Glotzer’. At Vivienne Westwood’s heels were dominatrix model Jordan and actress Helen Wellington-Lloyd, and the Bromley Contingent, the Sex Pistols’ most visible fans named by Caroline Coon, punk journalist for Melody Maker, boasted a female majority, including Siouxie Sioux, Soo Catwoman and Debbie Juvenile. Then there were photographers, hair stylists, writers, compilers; Ann Summa, Valiant Heather Ferguson, Lydia Lunch, Mia Zapata and Cosey Fanni Tutti to list a few.
With the mainstream success of the Sex Pistols, it wasn’t long before punk was demonised as aggressive, violent, perverted, obsessed with chaos, but it was its rebranding as destructive and male that did the most damage – including the swift erasure of any punk who wasn’t actively appealing to the straight male audience the music was marketed towards. So punk is dead. We are not. Something else will come. Until then, it’s our secret history.
Personality Crisis – New York Dolls
Jet Boy, Jet Girl – Elton Motello
Survive – The Bags
Rock ‘n’ Roll Victim – Death
Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) – The Buzzcocks
Oh Bondage Up Yours! – X-Ray Spex
Fuck Off – Jayne County and the Electric Chairs
Muscleboys – The Mumps
Typical Girls – The Slits
Going Down – The Germs
Confession – Nervous Gender
Knives In The Drain – Lydia Lunch
‘Punk: A Secret History’, by Richard ‘Underground’ Moore.