HomoCore: The Loud and Raucous Rise of Queer Rock by David Ciminelli and Ken Knox

[25 August 2005]

By N. A. Hayes

In 1997 when Matt Wobensmith, ended publication of his ‘zine, Outpunk, he cited among his reasons the difficulty in expending energy to stay the same. The final issue speaks of moving out of the myopic vision of gay punk rock into the appropriated genre of Queercorps. He forces his readers to ask questions about not only the genre of punk rock but also how identity politics and art relate.

Similarly David Ciminelli and Ken Knox engage their subject starting in gay punk and expand from there. They don’t make the artist’s relation to identity in their art a central question in choosing their interviewees for HomoCore: The Loud and Raucous Rise of Queer Rock. Instead they profile gay artists from the entire spectrum of opinions about identity and art from Clint Yeager of Sour, who has extreme doubts about the centrality of queerness in the making of art, to Team Dresch, which was created specifically with the idea of having a lesbiancentric rock band.

Ciminelli and Knox provide a wide and pleasing survey of the rise of Queer Rock. They have approached these musicians in the same way they approach adult actors in the excellent and high quality porn magazine, Unzipped, on which they both work. They provide a space for the performers to speak for themselves instead of pursuing an agenda. However a deeper investigation is absent from HomoCore and sensitive readers will be provoked to supply this for themselves.

Judith Halberstam in In a Queer Time and Place discusses how “minority subcultures in general tend to be documented by former or current members of the subculture rather than by ‘adult’ experts.” Without the dual role of participant and archivist, often brief-lived subcultures will leave little trace. For instance the Leather Archives and Museum must now do the work of trying to recapture the lost history of Leather culture since it often carries with it a stigma, which caused the destruction of many artifacts.

Queer punk has produced several ‘zines to document the various aspects of this movement. But HomoCore attempts to document gay rockers with a more “adult” hand. This book seems a sleek companion to the self-documentation of HomoCore/QueerCore ‘zines. Perhaps together with the original documentary material it would be possible to do a more analytical study of this subculture that attempts to rebel against both mainstream straight and gay communities. Halberstam further explicates this phenomena by describing how “subcultures provide a vital critique of the seemingly organic nature of ‘community’ and they make visible the forms of unbelonging and disconnection that are necessary to the creation of community.” HomoCore provides a place for certain musicians who felt “unbelonging and disconnection” to critique the mainstream while telling their stories.

This book is an excellent primer for those interested in learning the basics about HomoCore. Although still very connected with the punk roots of this ununified movement, the book addresses the evolution of the subculture by discussing performers who have taken some of the raw energy from the first bands and channeled it into more refined forms. Ciminelli and Knox also move beyond simple performer-centered interviews since the nature of this music also demands an explanation of the often grassroots and small label methods of its distribution. The author’s bring to light the fact that HomoCore performers who have established some small success often seek to bring attention to other queer performers in a continuing critique of the often limiting mainstream.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/homocore-2005/