Our Pride music short list concludes with queer bands.
As a queer writer on a personal mission to dispel the myth that gay men only groove to disco and show tunes and that lesbians only listen to angry folk singers, I am thrilled to be able inform readers about GLBT bands making their own kind of music.
More coy than necessary, the four female members of Lez Zeppelin have what can be described as a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in terms of revealing any information about into which sexual classification they fit. So be it. With a band name like Lez Zeppelin, they get a generous pass and they get some ink for their eponymous debut disc (Emanation). What a concept, huh? Four women covering classic Led Zep tunes, including “Whole Lotta Love,” “Rock and Roll,” and “Communication Breakdown,” complete with blistering guitars, bashing drums and a lead vocalist, Sarah McLellan, who does a spot-on Robert Plant. Let’s be real, Plant’s vocals often reached a pitch one might describe as feminine in quality, so Lez Zeppelin’s respectful tribute to Led Zeppelin is far more logical than say, Mary Cheney having a baby.
Over the course of three intoxicating albums, Thomas M. Lauderdale, the openly gay Pink Martini mastermind has single-handedly given the lounge-music revival a reason to exist in the first place. The third, and latest, Hey Eugene! (Heinz), is an unswervingly tasty and exotic affair, combining Pink Martini’s world music fascination with its knack for crafting original contemporary standards. Lead vocalist China Forbes has never sounded better, whether she is singing in Arabic (“Bukra wba’do”), Japanese (“Taya Tan”), French (“Ojalá”), or Russian, Italian, and English (“Dosvedanya Mio Bambino”) as well as on a duet with the legendary Jimmy Scott on “Tea for Two.” Ultimately, it’s the title track, a Forbes original, that deserves to be the single of the summer, with its party atmosphere and tale of possible love and unbridled enthusiasm. All in all, Pink Martini will leave you both shaken and stirred.
Queer acoustic and harmonically inclined trio Girlyman returns with the fittingly titled Joyful Sign (girlyman.com). As with Pink Martini’s latest, this disc is Girlyman’s third full-length album, and the third time sounds like the charm for this group as well. Solid and sweet harmonies, clean musicianship, and a set of 14 songs that stick to your ribs makes Joyful Sign a high-flying achievement. Highlights include “Hold It All at Bay,” “Sunday Morning Bird,” “Good Enough,” “Through to Sunrise,” “Serve It Up,” and the title track.
Cheap Date (actorslashmodel.com) by gender-queer duo Actor Slash Model is one of the most impressive album debuts in recent memory. Think the Ditty Bops with chromosome corruption. Performed mainly on ukulele and upright bass by Simon Strikeback and Madsen Minax, respectively, the songs are toe tappers in the truest sense. Actor Slash Model raises trans awareness and sensitivity in their own unique (and occasionally humorous) way, as you can hear on “Dealings & Such” and the album’s centerpiece, “TN Tranny Two-Step.” Strikeback and Minax also get in their licks on S&M-themed tracks such as “Don’t Break My Heart,” “Mommies and Daddies,” and “SM Cowboy.” Coyote Grace , a duo led by trans frontman Joe Stevens that occupies some of the same territory as Actor Slash Model, has just released its debut disc, Boxes & Bags (Mile After Mile).
The queer front men of the bands Placebo and The Feeling also do their part when it comes to giving listeners something exciting to listen to. Originally released in 2006, Meds (Astralwerks) by Placebo features standout tracks such as the title track, “Drag,” “Follow the Cops Home,” “Because I Want You,” and “Broken Promise” (featuring another out front man, Michael Stipe of R.E.M.). The album has been reissued to include two bonus tracks, the original “Uneedmemorethanineedu” and a reverent cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.” The Feeling, a UK quintet, revives the spirit of shiny but substantial Brit pop of the last couple of decades on the wondrous tapestry of its debut disc, Twelve Stops and Home (Cherry Tree/Interscope). The first stitch can be heard on the gorgeous “Sewn,” which is followed by the stunning stutter of “Never Be Lonely” (recalling both Gerry Rafferty and Supertramp), “Love It When You Call” (which has a flash of Queen guitar), the rhythmic “I Want You Now,” and the power ballad “Rosé.”
On her first few albums, Sean Wiggins surrounded herself with talented musicians, but it was always her name that appeared on the CD cover, either solo or as the Sean Wiggins Band. With The Kitchen Sink (seanwiggins.com), she has expanded her moniker to Sean Wiggins & Lone Goat , giving the band its own identity. That was a wise move on her part, because the assembled musicians really add something to numbers such as “I’m Not Your Maid,” “Crazy,” “The Catchiest Song,” and “Whole Enchilada.”
As part of his annual Pride music series, Gregg Shapiro recommended new releases from gay men in our June issue (“After Elton”) and women in our July issue (“Listening to Lesbians”).