Ssion (pronounced “shun”) has been floating around the peripheries of arty dance punk touring with Liars, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Faint, shocking unsuspecting hipsters with a defiantly queer, artistically over-the-top live show. The band, primarily frontman Cody Critcheloe and producer J.A.M., is as much a multimedia project as a musical one—video, graphic art, drawings and theater are as important to the Ssion experience as the tunes. Indeed, even the obviously low-budget Fool’s Gold includes a 24-page, three color insert, with scraps of song lyrics, photography and line drawings. Across media, however, Ssion practices a precisely delineated, whimsically outrageous sort of art, too playful to really offend, but not by much.
The music is inspired by the trashiest sort of 1970s disco, full of cranked out wah wah guitars, percolating synths and exuberantly obscene vocal choruses (“Gee whiz! Street jizz! It more dirty than it really is!”). Yet despite these flimsy trappings, Ssion’s music is politically and culturally sharp as a razor. “The Woman” starts with a heavily accented woman’s confession that “In the 1960s, I burnt my bra / In the 1970s, I made it with a chick / In the 1980s, I made it with another chick / In the 1990s, I didn’t do shit / Now give me my guitar, asshole / I’ve got a show to play,” back with skanky bass and funk-syncopated drums. It’s the kind of mindlessly aggressive, up-with-women tirade that you’ll soon be sick of if you hang out at all-female web boards, but pushed only microscopically too far into parody. “Clown” by contrast, with its finger snapping, synth percolating opening is like a lost Chic outtake, soaked in sex but prickly with outsider disdain. “You can live in the trenches…or in a house with picket fences,” croons Critcheloe, against a vintage 1978 disco beat. It’s one or the other but not both, and you can guess which one these gender provocateurs will choose.
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// Notes from the Road
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