Monday, July 9, 2018

glam in theory

I agreed with our dear departed Mark Fisher on many things...  we fought shoulder to shoulder in joint campaigns like H-ology and Nuum-Wars and so forth... but we weren't in lockstep by any means, even squabbled (respectfully and amiably!) now and then. And there are quite few things where I don't see or hear what Mark saw or heard in something (I'm sure there were many, many vice versas - Arctics and Vampire W immediately spring to mind!)

One thing that always puzzled me was the K-punk enthusiasm for Roisin Murphy and Moloko as a modern manifestation of glam....  Roisin as the true daughter of Roxy

I just didn't see it, couldn't hear it

a sub-Leigh Bowery costume do not necessarily maketh the glam-diva monster

To me they / she seem an archetypal example of that (mostly Brit, but not always) syndrome where all the right moves are made - in terms of presentation, rhetorical pitch, packaging, references, sound and influence palette etc  - but something is missing

That syndrome / lineage would include Goldfrapp,  Janelle Monae (where the checklist includes a whole set of political boxes being ticked), in an earlier era / taste-episteme Curve, and various others

The lack is precisely presence -  the X Factor that makes a person magnetic, as opposed to merely attractive or easy on the eye.

That thing where you can't stop looking  - that place where Fetish (in the idol sense) meets Car Crash.

Presence not meaning vivacious, having nothing really to do with being a lively or sparky interviewee. But something borderline unwholesome, a charisma/need related ultimately to narcissistic personality disorder.

So with the glam-in-theory types, you get all this cleverness arranged around it, even a kind of "excess"  - but there's a fundamental modesty in terms of  what's at the heart of the confection.

A pleasing, able, but fundamentally small voice.  Even facially, a beauty that is too neat and regular

                                                        the eye just slide off, the gaze isn't arrested

in the mold of Dani Siciliano rather than Marc Bolan

To put it another way, none of them are even Bjork or Kate Bush - let alone Grace Jones.

There isn't that force of self -  the drive to be spectacular - to command an audience.

Nor that slightly disgusting / disturbing desperation for attention, the ravenous lust for exposure, to drink up the gaze of the entire world

(So none of them are Amy Winehouse either)

These are craftily curated projects, art-pop exhibitions  - not exhibitionist art

This "good in theory" / "glam in theory" syndrome is one reason why certain seemingly obvious figures (self-conscious inheritors of glam - e.g. Scissor Sisters) are absent from the Aftershocks section of S+A where I hopscotch through various Eighties/Nineties/21st Century-so-far echoes of glam...   because they don't cut the mustard, whereas other seemingly less likely figures (Nicki Minaj, Kanye, et al) seemed to have the spirit in full fierce force - that despotic drive -  if not making the overt references and allusions, the neatly delineated lineage

And whatever you think of Lady Gaga, she blew the other glam-resurrectionists out of the water... she made the references and the quotations, yes, but she had also had the essentially vulgar voracity, that pushing of the self right in the centre of the world's attention, the sickness of the true star

                                             don't announce your "narcissism", embody it, impose it 

                              disco is glam's cousin, its next-door neighbour, yes yes... but could this resurrection be milder or meeker? 

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who was that masked man? (slight return)

  [via Rob Chapman]