--In the Bad Gay Music Department, I was given a promo copy of Ari Gold’s Space Under Sun to review for Just Out. My blurb-length impression (pre-copy editing) is pasted below. Thankfully, a musical angel saw fit to share with me Franz Ferdinand’s spiky boy-boy lust tune “Michael,” which, along with Suede’s “My Insatiable One” and “Pantomime Horse,” Imperial Teen’s “Imperial Teen,” and The Smiths’ “Handsome Devil,” and anything by McAlmont and Butler’s (other current listening to wash that Space Under Sun flavor- or is it, ugh, “flava”?- out of my mouth) proves that worthy queer music- music not always created by bona fide same-sexers, but unmistakably thoughtful and expansive in its romantic/erotic awareness- had already left Gold and his ilk in the dust before they’d ever entered a recording studio.
”There’s something disconcertingly contemporary-Christian about gay R&B singer Ari Gold’s new disc, Space Under Sun. Gold is no fundamentalist, but his evident sonic aspiration is precisely that of “Christian rock”: To mimic contemporary top 40 music while interjecting his own identity (urban, Jewish, gay). Gold’s twists include lyrics about having sex with other guys in public (“Caught”), bantering with a girlfriend about an object of desire’s orientation (“He’s On My Team”), and unironic Madonna worship (“Fan-Tastic”).
The songs’ themes are actually more intriguing than their rather one-dimensional, standard-issue plastic-bombastic execution; the vocoders and synth squiggles on the title track echo Kraftwerk’s “Spacelab,” and that’s about it for anything sonically adventurous or witty. Gold has a strong, beautiful voice, which he dutifully, “professionally” whips into the syllable-elongating hysteria that apparently signifies musical emotion these days; he could be sucking up to the American Idol judges, which is the last thing pop music, gay or straight, needs more of.
The queer pop music audience, as much as any pop-culture-consuming demographic, deserves to be demanding, to expect something interesting, unique, affecting, even earth-shattering or life-changing, not just slavish photocopies of the same homogenized thing. It would seem that queer artists are in a singular position to recreate and reshape pop culture into something fresh, smart, lively, and provocative, but Space Under Sun doesn’t even try."
--America’s Sweetheart is the punk-clever title of Courtney Love’s new album (it might as well have been called “Fuck You”), and it’s rather misleading. If you’re hoping for any of the wit or astute snottiness that drenched Love’s back-catalog masterpiece, Hole’s Celebrity Skin album, you’re out of luck. This is easily Ms. Love’s most one-dimensional effort ever, with some of it just lazy coasting and some of it descending to previously unplumbed depths of embarrassment.
It’s not entirely worthless: “Mono,” the first single, is cool, though I could’ve done without the asinine cock-rock “Maaannn!!”s she interjects (she’s going for Johnny Rotten and only achieves James Hetfield). The single, rousing and defiant as it is, is also misleading; no-one's going to be proclaiming Courtney Love the savior of rock 'n roll anytime soon. “But Julian, I’m a Little Bit Older Than You” is a cheap, disposable, momentarily amusing Strokes piss-take (could there be any other kind?). “Zeplin Song” is a pretty good joke mocking bad Led Zeppelin-obsessed boyfriends, and “Sunset Strip” and “Almost Golden” even have little traces of the melancholic California gold-dust that made Celebrity Skin sparkle. “All the Drugs” has a raunchy, rip-roaring riff, but the good bits (particularly the decadent, despondent lyric, “All of my money doesn’t feel as good as the drugs“) are too few and far between for a song title like that from this particular artist.
On the the (long way) downside, you haven’t heard power ballads this cheesy since the heyday of Poison. “Hold Onto Me” indulges Love’s Stevie Nicks obsession to a truly ill-advised extent. And if that one’s not wholly unlistenable, the songless pretension of “Life Despite God” sure does the trick. “Never Gonna Be the Same” sounds like someone coming down in the shower while trying to remember and sing the words to an Aerosmith hit. “Uncool” is her Bernie Taupin collaboration, and her tuneless yowling of Taupin’s greeting-card abstractions brings to mind a vituperative drag Elton John for the brief moment your ears can tolerate it. It all reminds me of when Nina Gordon deserted Veruca Salt to try to be Lita Ford; neither as pretty as it wants to be nor un-pretty/anti-pretty enough to be interesting.
The disappointment of America’s Sweetheart makes me long for whatever’s coming next from PJ Harvey, who easily and always trumps Love as our dominant latter-day mistress of rock ‘n roll mythology. According to the rumors Peej herself started, the new stuff is "quite an ugly batch of songs. Quite disturbing, quite dark, quite bluesy." Mmmm... sounds like her 1993 masterpiece, Rid of Me, which is one of the best, "ugliest" albums in pop history. Oh, and of course Morrissey’s You Are the Quarry album and “Irish Blood, English Heart” single. I look forward to the Moz revival with significantly less trepidation than a certain pop fan at another blog.
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