Music

Magneta Lane: The Constant Lover

Justin Cober-Lake

Hey, it's like the girl version of cool stuff!"


Magneta Lane

The Constant Lover

Label: Paper Bag
US Release Date: 2005-05-17
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

Sometimes it's easy to see where a buzz comes from. Magneta Lane is from a hot musical scene (Toronto indie rock) and on a label that pretty consistently releases music worth hearing (Paper Bag Records). The group ties in to recent trends, but has enough energy to make you forget about words like "derivative". With so much hype building around a handful of live shows and a 20-minute EP, you've got to wonder how the group will really stand up to repeated listens and deeper scrutiny.

Magneta Lane isn't breaking any new ground, but they cover their terrain well. Their debut EP The Constant Lover comes from the same musical place as the Strokes (although with more aggression) and keeps the New Wave sound in mind. Vocalist Lexi Valentine has been drawing lots of accurate references to Chrissie Hynde, partly because of the tone of her voice, and partly because of its delivery.

Valentine, who also plays guitar, stands at the fore of the band, and the rhythm section simply provides support. The bass and percussion are solid, but mostly uninteresting. Magneta Lane rides on fuzzy, straight-ahead power-pop; it's about results, not technique, and the trio pull it off without displaying their skills.

The group formed after Valentine and drummer Nadia King decided that watching a concert wasn't satisfying enough. There's a bit of Third Wave feminism in that attitude, but it's not a leaning the band has identified itself with. In fact, the band's press materials state that the group is "feminine but not feminist". And that poses a bit of a problem.

No one should be called a feminist who isn't willing to take that mantle, yet the explicit rejection of the connection sounds odd coming from a group that cites Hole and Nancy Sinatra as two of its influences and claims to be "intent on presenting a strong female presence". What is and isn't feminist is still hotly debated, but the Magneta Lane path into the discussion turns provocative.

The eponymous opening track reflects on two of the pulling ideas. Valentine sings:

"When he's playing his guitar
She knows the songs and he'll get far
Girl, keep your beauty
They say that's your duty."

The lyrics show the tension between the power of male fame and privilege and the desire for a woman to control (and use) her own sexuality. A woman should be able to have sex if she wants and not let "them" say what she can do, but she should also be aware of dynamics society's uneven playing field. As in the current discourse, there's no easy answer here, but Magneta Lane shows a willingness to address these concerns. What happens to song's title character? Valentine sings, "What happened to her I'm not sure."

There's no Kathleen Hanna here, and there's no dyke aggression and no "womyn", and there might not be whatever else we think of as feminism. But there are issues that are developing on The Constant Lover that should be examined. Even glance at the song titles -- including "Medusa", "Mare of the Night", "Ugly Socialite" -- suggests that there aren't dormant politics here.

So why the aversion to and pre-emptive strike on the feminist label? Maybe label/publicist fears or an uncertainty about what the f-word means or maybe its about record sales and being the girl-Strokes, letting lazy journalists cast about for lazy comparisons to any previous female act that's not too threatening (like Chrissie Hynde, for example). Feminism isn't buzz-y.

And if you're thinking it, you're right -- it's not fair for a male critic to put the burden of feminism on a young band just because they're chicks who sing from "a woman's perspective". That's absolutely true, and I don't mean to do it. I want to put the burden on everyone else involved in listening or writing to figure out how to talk about it. I hope when we get more than 20 minutes and six songs we all have something more to say.

6

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Scholar Judith May Fathallah's work blurs lines between author and ethnographer, fan experiences and genre TV storytelling.

In Fanfiction and the Author: How Fanfic Changes Popular Culture Texts, author Judith May Fathallah investigates the progressive intersections between popular culture and fan studies, expanding scholarly discourse concerning how contemporary blurred lines between texts and audiences result in evolving mediated practices.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image