|MOMENTS AND WHATNOTS
Taped recorder. Subverting the rock phallocracy at 1.48 of ‘Nothing Came Out’ by The Moldy Peaches
Despite its self-appointed role as a bastion of
gentle, egalitarian values, the genre that we may as well call indie pop
(for reasons of tidiness if nothing else) can be as blokey and boorish
as any other strata of rock music. As Kimya Dawson sings on ‘Nothing Came Out’ (from The Moldy Peaches’ self-titled debut), however ‘alternative’ an indie boy may be, he won’t fancy a “huge manatee” like herself; he’ll almost certainly prefer to hook up with “some skinny pretty girl that likes to talk about bands”.
But if a genre is inherently politically flawed, how can you subvert it without destroying its essence? The structure of rock songs, whether by Aerosmith or the Field Mice, demands the occasional guitar solo, and these sonic simulacra of phallic display are usually the preserve of the boys in the band. (Women are allowed to play instruments in indieland, provided they stick to bass, keyboards or tambourine.)
So what’s poor, flabby, rabbit-suited Kimya to do? She’s a cartoon buff, and the only band she knows is Josie and the Pussycats.
Cue the recorder solo, played with all the confidence and panache of a six-year-old getting to grips with ‘London’s Burning’ (not by The Clash, smartass). Just as Prokofiev used a different instrument to personify each character in Peter and the Wolf, the recorder is Kimya (or the first-person narrator that Kimya inhabits). It’s clunky, hesitant, amateurish, and it would rather watch Hong Kong Phooey than listen to Slint.
The recorder has about 20 seconds of teeth-clenching fame, and normal service is resumed, with two rock clichés to calm our rattled nerves. First, the extraneous studio noise, as noted in Moments and Whatnots 2; a phone rings, and Kimya nearly corpses.
And then, inevitably, the boys have to show off their toys. There’s a knowingly ludicrous guitar solo, like Brian May suffering an attack of explosive diarrhoea. But it only serves to prove that the beating heart of the song is contained in the humble recorder. Maybe by next term she’ll be able to play ‘Kum By Ya’.
© 2006 Tim Footman