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Old dog, newish tricks

[Originally published 1994 |
Updated here 1999.06.20

Devout Queer in Your Ear readers will be aware that I continue to advocate rock music even now in the 1990s. This is not due to some misplaced nostalgia for the era of Hendrix, Uriah Heep, and Jefferson Airplane (I wasn't even a sentient being then, for heaven's sake); I simply believe it's encumbent upon people to seek out a variety of musical forms. This is critically important to a queer culture saturated with interchangeable Hi-NRG one-hit wonders and "alternative" crooners; let's let frat boys and wizened baby-boomers be the ones hostile to musical variety. Besides, after forty-odd years, the motifs of rock music have become so refined and specialized that there as many flavours of guitar-bass-drums music as there are of ice cream (or condoms).

But that calls for a certain selectiveness, n'est-ce pas? There's nothing wrong with being a picky eater at the rock-music banquet. I suggest you listen to King's X (that's "eks," not "ten"), an Amerikanski trio that offers a pleasant mix of extended guitar lines and leisurely-sung lyrics. What's so great about them? Nothing in particular, save for unwavering competence. I reject the theory that each and every creative venture (typeface, album, queer music article, whatever) needs to surpass its precedent to be worthy. Lateral progression counts for something. King's X is an exception to the rule of record labels' endless releases of musical "product" that cheapen the currency of the full-length album. If you and your bandmates can put together a pair of records that stand up well against each other, you're laughing.

And that is just what King's X has done with Dogman (Dogperson?), their fifth record and second on a major label (the last was 1992's eponymous King's X). I know of no better practitioner of the medium-speed rock song. These tunes rock, but you can sing along with them, too, not to mention dance to them with a partner of your choice. I think this has something to do with the fact that singer-lyricist Doug Pinnick is also the bassist (an odd combination, that); with someone else on guitar, this lessens the the temptation to show off with flashy finger-twisting gee-tar curlicues.

What you get is a mixture of extended guitar grooves and Pinnick's drawn-out phrasing (he can make the word "dogman" sound like it was meant to be pronounced over a period of more than two seconds). King's X also tends to stop and start music and lyrics at the same moment over and over again within a song (I'm told Black Sabbath did this too, but again, I'm too young), giving their songs a sort of impromptu remix feel. Perhaps John Oswald could come up with a plunderphone that samples and reorders the discrete segments from various King's X songs; he could call it PedestriKing Xing.

Queer Name for a Band Contest!

Though less important than actual music and the graphic design of album covers, an apt name for a musical group can immediately grab you by the lapels/bra strap/chastity belt. The most felicitous names are those that come across as lexically unlikely – not quite ungrammatical, but anomalous enough to stick with you: King's X, Mott the Hoople, Crime and the City Solution, Cabaret Voltaire. On the other hand, thuddingly obvious names that rely on the word "band" (J. Geils Band, Jeff Healey Band) or the construction "X and the Ys" (Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Elvis Costello and the Attractions) just don't cut the mustard. Neither do simple pluralized words (the Odds, the Heretics, the Cramps), unparsable rap alphanumerisms (MCJ & Cool G, Ed O.G. & Da Bulldogz), or names that sound wacky (Sheep on Drugs, Buggles) or tacky (Revolting Cocks, Dead Kennedys).

Music-group nomenclature badly needs some ingenuity. What, for example, could an all-queer band call itself? Here are a few options (many heisted from the soc.motss newsgroup, others my own):

[Original call for entries for a Queer Name for a Band contest deleted, because it's over and done with. You can find the results in QiYE 34.]