Saturday, July 9, 2011

Vaginas are pretty cool.

I recently came across an article from a 1996 issue of New York Magazine (thanks, Google Books) that ran a feature on women in rock, in which artists like Nina Gordon, Liz Phair and Exene Cervenka expressed a likelihood that men would go back to dominating the charts after a brief chimera of neo-feminism came and went and made a novelty of female musicians. I think this happened, but I don't think it was initially an issue so much of the novelty of the female musician so much as the female rock musician. Hell – look to the riot grrl movement, even, which abruptly ended and no longer seems to exist outside of Olympia.

In the late '90s, it came to be that for every PJ Harvey, Justine Frischmann or Courtney Love, there was a Beth Hart, Jewel or Abra Moore, and then some. And maybe that defined the difference between 1996 and 1997 – if 1996 was the year that women stood a chance in the rock world, Sarah McLachlan destroyed that chance, to an extent, by bringing the Lilith Fair to life in 1997 and ironically making a novelty out of the female musician. How? By lumping together every remotely successful female folk musician of the time and creating a fresh stereotype. Not only did the ballsy female rock musician become near-extinct in the mainstream as she gave way to the limp-voiced Lilith Fair stage subject, but Lilith Fair itself killed the possibility of women outgrowing the novelty title as it brought a label to the idea of the female musician in general. And the concept of the feminist, perhaps once “angry,” “bra-burning” and “lousy in the kitchen,” now turned to a picture of the female hippie with unshaven armpits and at least one song with a yodel of sorts. A soft, watered-down version of third-wave feminism. Fuck you, 1997.

That said, it kills me a little to lump together some whatsits on a couple of new girly rock bands. But it seems appropriate because they're quite similar, and, interestingly, largely reminiscent of the early-to-mid-'90s grunge and shoegaze periods. Which I love.

The first, Is/Is, has roots in Minneapolis and have self-referenced themselves as a “witch-gaze trio,” which is strangely accurate. They're like a grungier, more assertive version of Mazzy Star – a personal favorite of mine, nostalgic or otherwise – and they're currently celebrating the release of a 7-inch, which follows up their This Happening EP. Video for “Eating Hourglasses” to follow. Immediately.

Is/Is - So Long (off This Happening)

The other grungy, girly offering of the evening is a band called SneakPeek, and they're not actually an all-girl band (they're merely female-fronted), but bring an extremely similar sound and style to Is/Is. They're local to L.A., from Echo Park, and half of the group consists of a couple, the male side of which is former Willowz guitarist Aric Bohn. They are, essentially, what I wish the Dum Dum Girls sounded like, and are somewhat reminiscent of Dum Dum Girls' track "Stiff Little Fingers," in a nutshell. Largely nostalgic for the female/female-fronted grunge and shoegaze period that ought to have been more prominent in the '90s. They also have an EP scheduled for release this summer and will be at the 5 Star Bar in L.A. on July 22.

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