[Originally published 1991 |
Updated here 1999.06.20
Spin yourself around and get ready for Kitchens of Distinction, whose words and music upset your equilibrium like a twirl in the barber's chair.
Strange Free World, the British trio's make-or-break "major-label début" on A&M, proves it's possible to mate gloriously poetic songwriting with derivative musicianship. Kitchens of Distinction's dizzy guitar-à-go-go sound will remind you, perhaps tediously, of anything from Joy Division to Dinosaur Jr., but the charm and sincerity of openly gay songwriter Patrick Fitzgerald make the fretwork easy to forgive.
Listen here for warm-hued depictions of feeling and friendship that betray an observant and accepting nature. Here are several pictures, and pictures mean the past, Fitzgerald writes in the song "Polaroids." Here's a pretty desert scene, and here's a sea of grass. Lively orchards and vacant lots, big men grinning and holding hands – all the time the seasons win and everything is lost....
Bronski Beat it ain't, and consciously so. Fitzgerald won't be held to anyone's perception of "gay songwriting." "Being gay doesn't mean you have to write about specifically gay issues constantly. Why not just write about whatever, which is exactly what I want to do? Being out, to me, is enough of a statement that I feel like I will not stifle myself in any way. I will write about what I'm interested in, and if that's within male/female relationships, male/male, female/female, fine, I'll do it. If I want to write about cameras, I'll write about cameras.
"When [fellow bandmembers] Dan and Jules found out I was gay," Fitzgerald says, "they thought, Fine. No problem.' What I had to learn was to relax in their company, and not feel judged, and not feel as though I should be tolerated, and not feel that I had to hold back from anything. I could sit there and talk about, you know, I sucked some great cock last night,' and not feel worried about it. So that's what I learned – how to deal with straight guys and say those things and not worry. And now I can do that with anybody – straight women, lesbians, anybody."
Sonic Youth thinks it's hot stuff, but viewers have to mine for the merest flakes of gold in its new home video, Goo.
Typically for the band, Goo melds artful guile with artless gall. Sonic Youth has long been America's foremost group with barely any talent, but even allowing for that, its compulsion for tawdry, consciously "homemade" videos makes Goo look low-rent, not subversive. The band itself cannot escape blame: Guitarist Thurston Moore's video for "My Friend Goo" could have come from any geeky teenager with a big ego.
All is not lost. "Scooter + Jinx" features lesbian erotica and is directed, predictably, by a man. Vocalist/diva Kim Gordon manages to expand the pro-black intent of the glittering "Kool Thing" beyond mere fetishism (not that anyone's knocking fetishism); still, her inclusion of bigoted Public Enemy prima donna Chuck D doesn't help much, annulling any purported feminist message. But Goo is redeemed almost entirely by "Disappearer," the mystical, anomic video by Todd Haynes (yes, of Poison fame). This gem pulses with evocations of drag, alien visitation, assimilation, road movies, and the ambivalence felt when an ending overlaps a new beginning. "Disappearer" is one of the foremost videos of 1990. Fast forward through the goo of Goo to watch it. Then watch it again.