[Originally published 1991 |
Updated here 1999.06.20
For over a decade, Fifth Column has been showing us new ways to be a girl group. Straight, bi, and dyke girls are all welcome, as are bi and dyke boys. (Straight boys need not apply.) Guitarist Caroline Azar puts it this way: "To be honest with you, we really believe that almost anyone can be in Fifth Column, and even if they weren't really musicians but had a passion for music and a sense of rhythm or something. So we always got people who played heart and soul all their lives as little kids, and then basically we would, like, reinvent music with people who were 'conventionally' unmusical.
"When I met G.B. Jones – the original drummer, who's now guitarist – she knew every obscure film that I knew, Robert Altman or otherwise, a lot of the underground low-budget stuff. A lot of our music is also influenced by stories in films and the feeling one gets from films."
Azar says the main audience for these practitioners of "guitar hysteria" is "young, progressive dykes and fags." Anyone can join the large fan bases in queertropoli like Seattle and San Francisco by sending orders to Box 1110, Adelaide St. Station, Toronto M5C 2K5. Chomp into their albums, To Sir with Hate and All-Time Queen of the World, then brace yourself for the forthcoming dance single "Yo-Yo," which apparently will cause Madonna to quake in her shackles.
Having evicted rock & roll from the pop charts, dance music can indulge in a broad spectrum of talent. Place 808 State in the high end. These four young men are the problem children of "the Manchester scene," preferring to enlarge our conception of the synthesizer than emulate the Doors. Don't rely on 808 State for vocals; they pop up now and again from celebrity singers, but the band's skill is in its singular mastery of keyboards. Epicycles, euphonious noise, a wide emotional range, and references to the entire history of electronic music figure into 808 State's genuinely brilliant albums, Utd. State 90 and Ex:El (Tommy Boy), and its not-actively-fabulous home video, Optical.
"Ultimately, 808 State have put a bit of sleaze into the cold computer thing," says Darren Partington of the band. "You know, a bit of feel, a bit of funk, a bit of rhythm, because a lot of these industrial bands – there's no sleaze in it. It's very industrial and very strong. But we like to have a bit of everything – a bit of Motown influences, all sorts of influences in strong dance music, instead of just your plain hardcore Euro stuff."
"Yeah," bandmember Graham Massey agrees. "We're more sexy, anyway."[A note on the following section. For a few months I experimented with one- and two-sentence record reviews. Astonishingly difficult, intermittently brilliant, ultimately dead-ended. I post them here for historical curiosity value. And yes, the title is an all-out heist from Babs Kruger.]