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Music

Lesbians on Ecstasy: self-titled

Brian James

They give the listener some idea of what the narrator's life might be like rather than shoving bromides about tolerance down the throat.


Lesbians on Ecstasy

Lesbians on Ecstasy

Label: Alien8
US Release Date: 2004-10-26
UK Release Date: 2004-11-01
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The standard line from the chattering classes concerning John Kerry's unexpectedly solid loss in the recent election is that it was "values" that did him in, or as Jon Stewart pithily put it, "the thought of two dudes kissing". It's awfully close to the conventional wisdom by now that America was so alarmed by the speed with which same-sex marriage was sweeping the nation that it backlashed Bush all the way to a second term. There's plenty of evidence that this wasn't actually the case, that statistics have once again lied to us about reality, but that hasn't stopped heterosexual Bush-haters from taking a long and occasionally unfriendly look at the gay community. You might not hear it on CNN, but I'd wager that more than a few Democrats have muttered to themselves about what might have been if only the Massachusetts Supreme Court and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom hadn't been quite so uppity with a crucial election year approaching.

Few would dare say or even think such a thing about Lesbians on Ecstasy. For one thing, they're from Canada, and even the average redneck would agree that what Canada chooses to do in the privacy of its bedroom is no business of ours. But for another thing, a group with a name like Lesbians on Ecstasy has to know it's being confrontational with no second thoughts about its stance. And no, this isn't a bunch of guys having too much fun naming their band. They're real, no-foolin' lesbians, although it remains a somewhat secretive matter whether they are actually on ecstasy or not. Their self-titled debut album is meant to use as its source material the lesbian canon (k.d. lang, Indigo Girls, Melissa Etheridge, Tracy Chapman, etc.) and then mix it all up in an electro-postmodern way, and this suggests that their name carries some artistic and/or political weight. In other words, these aren't just lesbians; they're lesbians making a Lesbian Album.

The political implications behind this are nothing I care to get into here, for one particularly good reason. A straight male taking on gay politics would be better off taking the time he would've spent jotting down his criticisms by cutting out the middleman (or, woman) and writing himself hate mail, so I'll just chicken out with a blanket statement that pop music is almost always a lousy arena to grind a political axe. Music that tries inevitably comes off too preachy, too literal, and far too self-righteous. That said, Lesbians on Ecstasy doesn't fall into the usual traps. If it can be said to be political (and I'd say it can), then it's political as a whole rather than being made up of political songs. The lyrics do reference women and sex often enough, but they approach their subject on a human level. They give the listener some idea of what the narrator's life might be like rather than shoving bromides about tolerance down the throat. They show rather than tell, a cardinal rule for good art and one that's broken surprisingly often.

But if you're like me, the one question you wanted to know upon hearing the band's name is: Is this any fun? The answer, in short, is no. Not at all. Not a chance. The danceable electronica is solid enough if short of exemplary. You don't have to be gay to shake a tailfeather to it, and any band that avoids its expected musical ghetto deserves a tip of the cap. However, bands with vocalists as grating as Fruity Frankie don't deserve a tip of much of anything. Throughout the album, she manages to drag the proceedings down to a level of self-seriousness that they didn't need to be at, a level at which the music seems to underperform. Dance music this unsmiling has always turned me off, but since there's plenty of it out there; Lesbians on Ecstasy are hardly doomed. Still, the only way Fruity Frankie makes me want to move is away from her. Her tuneless ennui is not enraged enough to be compelling, nor is it subtle enough to be haunting or complex enough to be challenging or enough of anything to be very good. My advice to her for making better music is not original or profound, but is helpful and true, and that advice is to cheer up. After all, you don't have to live another four years under George Bush.

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