[TypicalGirls] Shrreds! (where is it?)

Chuck Warner chuck at hyped2death.com
Sun Jun 3 00:22:41 EDT 2007


>Chuck, weren't you planning at least tentatively once upon a time to 
>do a comp of H2D/Messthetics-era female-oriented stuff? Any chance 
>that's still on the horizon somewhere?
>
>Dan

Yeah...this seems like an opportune time to open up the discussion. 
I count any number of reasons for the, um, delay.  First, however, 
you should understand that I have some deeply-indoctrinated feminist 
roots that keep getting in the way of commercial good sense, here. 
Exploiting female singers for sex-appeal and profit is a long and 
discouraging tradition in the music business, and I can barely get 
comfortable with the "grrrl" coinage, let alone write "girl singer" 
without cringing (I use quotes to ease the guilt).  I have contacts 
with thousands of musicians from '77-84, and it would be little 
trouble to patch together several decent CDs of thematically 
disparate female vocals...and they'd all make money.  But as those 
hardy souls who've kept up with the regional versions of Messthetics 
have seen, I've drifted farther and farther into an archival/academic 
direction, and I can't stand the thought of something haphazard:

So... here are the challenges:

(1) As we can all see by the limited debate over Dina's list of 
essentials, there were only a handful of all-female bands to begin 
with --and almost every one of them became well-known (and 
well-reissued).  Among the unknowns in the 
Messthetics/Homework/Teenline spectrum, the Androids of Mu, Wilma and 
Boy Trouble (respectively) were themselves quite high-profile 
compared to "average" H2D bands. (Y Pants were of course on the early 
Homeworks --and kindly agreed to stay on for the 100-series 
revision...) Which begs

(2) the debate over how many bands should be included that merely had 
a female singer.  Allowing that she should at least be the principal 
songwriter will limit that selection to manageable size.  But

(3) the biggest problem is the way that most of these bands recorded 
and arranged their songs.  Here's a condensed version of a VERY long 
argument over what (so often) went wrong, excerpted from the 
[8000-word] liner-notes to Messthetics #103. This paragraph 
introduced Coventry's Human Cabbages --a fine band with an excellent 
singer, but their recordings [5 songs extant] illustrated my point 
more than they showed the exception...:

The fact that Messthetics has so few bands with female vocalists 
involves a far longer story than we have space for here. Plainly, 
however, something about playing with a "girl singer" tended to make 
young [male] band-mates conduct themselves in a more dignified and 
professional manner -and/or to make utter fools of themselves showing 
off. And even the laziest studio knob-twiddlers felt strange 
compulsions to make the vocals "pretty" , or else to pile on effects 
til everything sounded like Siouxsie -or whoever else had recently 
topped the charts. In commercial circles this was business-as-usual, 
but the first principle of Messthetics' musical universe is 
unselfconsciousness -and above all never worrying about who (if 
anyone) is paying attention. So while untold hundreds of teen-aged 
boys with unremarkable voices were able to sound like...just that, 
only the tiniest handful of women made it to vinyl sounding relaxed 
andŠordinary.

Bands like Kleenex (and surprisingly many other Swiss, Dutch, German 
and Scandinavian bands) did this spectacularly well, but the 
phenomenon I'm talking about didn't really gain meaningful traction 
in the US or UK until the Riot Grrl bands (who were often 
self-consciously writing for a female audience), and only became 
established for good (one hopes) with the geek culture bands [guys no 
longer have to impress the girls] and laptop pop [you never have to 
face your audience --or internalize/conform to their expectations].

Then, finally, from a purely practical standpoint,
(4) Women from punk-era bands remain MUCH much harder to trace than 
men.  Not just because some of them have married (or divorced) and 
changed names, but also because far fewer ever kept telephone 
listings in their own names, or are now given to myspace braggadocio 
over their past musical exploits.  In my experience it's also 
significantly less likely that they are still making music (further 
complications of (3) above? i.e. it's harder to keep making music 
just for fun when people assume you're trying to be a pop-star 
[simply because of your gender]) ...which, to bring things full 
circle, is often an excellent reason to reject someone like me out of 
hand when I come asking to reissue their 25-30-year-old song... 
(Brenda Kenny from Naafi/Naffi remains the only musician from any 
Messthetics-scene band who simply cut off my spiel to say "Not 
interested... No... Not interested in any reissue, anywhere, ever." 
I didn't even get to tell her I was only interested in the 
instrumental B-side, "Freddy's Fever" [there's still hope, I suppose, 
if I can track down Sir Freddy Viaduct...]  ;o)

Anyone wanna help with my wish-list, btw? Some of the star[let]s are 
Esmerelda [Noh Mercy], Stef Petticoat, Rose Collis [Outsize 
Oddments], Carol Bently [Aquila] and Toxicomane [4 or 5 anonymous 
highschoolers from Southampton who formed a band to fill a vacant 
slot on the barely-issued South Specific compilation]...

So at this point I'm clearer on the concept of what I want to do, but 
even with the singing-in-their-natural-voices + anti-commercialism 
filters in place, I'd be chronicling a "scene" in the UK that didn't 
yet exist (certainly not in the sense that everyone was swapping 
tapes or going to each other's shows).  That's the "Let's Talk About 
Prams" series ...speaking of essential listening:
http://hyped2death-www/ra/Vital_Disorders-Prams.rm

In the States--the Shrreds! compilations-- should be a good bit 
easier, as long as people don't mind if it's more individual singers 
than all-women bands.  Mostly because there were so many more records 
and so many more bands played out (so that members of other bands 
know where to find them).

Enough for now?  Any comments'd be most welcome...

thanks,

C.

P.S.  Since there don't seem to be CD reissues of the Bangles' indie 
7" and 12" EP, "All Over the Place" is an easy selection (and 
arguably the stronger material anyway: Douglas is exactly right).

And if it was just me making the list, I'd throw in the Mystère des 
Voix Bulgares album (Nonesuch, 1980-)? Not TG at all, except that it 
was completely mindblowing to everyone that heard it for the first 
time back then, partly because of the melodies, but especially 
because it was this MASS of women making all kinds of incredible 
vocal sounds without any preconceptions of (or training in) 
traditional/classical singing technique.
-- 
Chuck Warner
Hyped to Death CDs/Messthetics
P.O. Box 351
Westminster, Massachusetts 01473
http://hyped2death.com
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