You are here: Homepage > Writing > QiYE main > QiYE article list > QiYE 34: Kathleen Yearwood; Tool; Queer Name for a Band winners

Author’s note

I cannot quite figure it out, but this single page (out of over 500 on my various sites) accounts for more traffic than anything else – 15,000 hits compared to maybe 3,000 for the next-most-popular entry. I assume this has nothing to do with Kathleen Yearwood and everything to do with Tool.

What I envision is a lonely cadre of AOL and Hotmail users methodically (even maniacally) stepping through each and every single link on every Tool homepage and in every single set of search-engine results. The fact that I’m listed in the Open Directory Project (at my own prodding) isn’t helping any.

I’m glad you’re all here. It’s just that this tiny article, now seven years old, simply is not important. It’s certainly not five times as important as anything else.

The Yearwood of listening dangerously or Out of thin air

[Originally published 1994 |
Updated here 1999.06.20

Atheists might as well stop reading this column right now. On the recommendation of Queer in Your Ear fave Bob Wiseman, I attended the recent launch party for Kathleen Yearwood’s début album Book of Hate. This charming, unassuming woman played a set for the few of us who had heard of her and within minutes took on a larger-than-life air. Soon I wanted to run screaming from the room, but found I was glued to my chair. This woman’s singing caused me to be more frightened than I have been since I was a kid. I am not using that word metaphorically. I was S-C-A-R-E-D, but I couldn’t leave, and oddly I felt that Yearwood had things under control.

I’m glad someone did. Through her singing (largely incomprehensible, and some songs were in old French) and other onstage displays like hurling beer bottles into a trashcan, Yearwood seemed to conjure all the evil extant in the room, as moisture can be made to condense from air. The evil did not come from Yearwood, but it coalesced in the presence of her voice. The room was alive with Satan, if you will. (I am not kidding. This really happened. And I was not the only one in the room to feel this way.) But later, like turning off a tap, it all went away when Yearwood left the stage.

This power has not entirely survived the translation to compact disc, but perhaps that is a good thing. Book of Hate is a multisensory feast [of course, I’m always saying that], featuring as it does a lovely gold-and-pink paperboard CD case that enfolds a delicate gauze CD jacket. Yearwood has some surprises up her musical sleeve, like a rare vocal range (all the way up to glass-shattering frequencies) and an unlikely but winsome union of disparate musical genres - folk, madrigals, a cappella, and guitar-feedback rock can all be heard, often in sequence. Yearwood resembles P.J. Harvey, Kate Bush and Sinéad O’Connor, but none of them has Yearwood’s power to unnerve. Keep reading this column for a Q&A with Yearwood, my vote for the most important singer/songwriter of the ’90s. You heard it here first.


Also troubling is Tool’s video "Prison Sex." Yes, one of the boys in Tool (I can never remember who) is an out fag, but "Prison Sex" is most certainly not an outtake from Poison. Rather, the subject is child molestation. It’s animated by the reclusive Brothers Quay, whose gothic stop-motion technique brilliantly augments the barely-held-together recollections of a (fictional?) abused child. The abuser is a sleek black figure (think what you will about that symbolism) towering over the legless, one-eyed toddler.

Locked in a dingy, morgue-like room, this despoiled Pinocchio turns for escape to the slide-out drawers that line a wall, but only manages to unleash a doppelgänger with a segmented body and rows of legs. "I have found some kind of temporary sanity in this shit, cum and blood on my hands," bellows Tool singer Maynard James Kean, whose tormented, portentus vocals, so tiresome in other Tool songs, are only apt here. Physical contact between abuser and child is limited largely to a metaphorical buffing by a paintbrush. When the child raises its hand to stop the painting, it’s the gentle way the abuser flattens the hand back down to the floor that always gets to me.

The video edits out the naughty words I quoted but was still deemed too much for Much(Music), which has aired it all of once (at 12:30 in the morning). Funny, though, how shooting your abuser dead (Aerosmith, "Janie’s Got a Gun"; Garth Brooks, "The Thunder Rolls"), a photo of a prisoner roped between two trees (Billy Joel, "We Didn’t Start the Fire"), and provocative fetus, reefer, and Ku Klux Klan imagery (Nirvana, "Heart-Shaped Box") are all deemed suitable for round-the-clock airplay while a skilful treatment of child abuse that’s at once oblique and visceral is not. Paging Moses Znaimer! Don’t we have a duty to bear witness to searing artworks of this sort? We don’t need you to tell us that "Prison Sex" is too heavy for our own good.

Queer Name for a Band contest winners!

Gosh, what filthy minds Queer in Your Ear readers have. Karen Anderson of Toronto wins Prince’s double-CD best-of album for mixing quantity and quality with entries like Stonewallflowers, Amelia Queerheart, Tomboy Club, and the Labia Majorettes. Brad Black of Toronto wins Kate Bush’s The Red Shoes for a simple and elegant entry: Leer. Kingston’s Tim Murphy wins a surprise consolation prize – Morrissey’s latest, Vauxhall and I – for Quentin and the Crisps. Having recently taken Mr. Crisp to lunch, I suspect he’d be ever so flattered.

Band rehearsal follows the Friday-night mah-jongg games at Pierre Trudeau’s pad on Pine Avenue. Bring your own amp.