PRINT April 1995


Greil Marcus' Real Life Rock

Greil Marcus is a contributing editor of Artforum. His “Direct na het laatste concert van de Sex Pistols” was recently reprinted in the anthology De drivel in wermonning (Nijgh & Van Ditmar, Amsterdam).

  1. Nicole Eisenman

    Alive with Pleasure, 1992–94, installation, “In a Different Light” (University Art Museum, Berkeley, through April 9). In this big wall assemblage of ads, doll parts, and Eisenman’s own cartoons, the famous 16th-century image of a naked Diana Poitiers pinching her sister’s nipple stands out, mainly because Eisenman has printed “SLUT” on D. P.’s chest, thus introducing l’École de Fontainebleu to riot grrrl. “Early on, ” Simon Reynolds and Joy Press write in their new The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion, and Rock ’n’ Roll (Harvard), “some daubed slogans and words with lipstick on their bodies,” and they quote Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill: “When you take off your shirt [onstage] the guys think, ‘Oh, what a slut’ and it’s really funny because they think that and then they look at you and it says it.” All of which is probably subsumed by the Beavis and Butt-head episode where the boys are watching Sheena Easton’s video for “Sugar Walls. ” “She did Prince,” Butt-head says. “And she dresses like a slut.” “Prince makes all his women dress like sluts,” Beavis says. “That’s why I like him,” Butt-head says. “He has a vision.”

  2. Mike Seeger

    Third Annual Farewell Reunion (Rounder). A long day’s Appalachian picnic, with Seeger gathering 23 performances by fiddlers, banjoists, mouth-bow players, and singers he’s worked with from the ’50s to now-siblings Pete and Peggy Seeger, Bob Dylan, Jimmie Driftwood, Jean Ritchie, many more. The best music is mountain air, the weather shifting in an instant but never really changing, and in its cleanest moments—“Oldtime Sally Ann,” with the late Tommy Jarrell on fiddle, Paul Brown on banjo, and Seeger on guitar—pointing toward paradise on earth. “I strive for really traditional-feeling sounds,” Seeger writes, “some of which may have never previously existed.”

  3. Mazzy Star

    “Halah” (Capitol). Escaping from the 1990 She Hangs Brightly album, an unlikely FM hit, and also weird—cool trash on the order of Joanie Sommers’ 1962 “Johnny Get Angry, ” and it may hold up as well. Languorously negotiating the sand dunes of the verses, Hope Sandoval sounds like Elizabeth Wurtzel looks on the jacket of Prozac Nation (“a Playboy bunny as St. Sebastian,” a friend put it), but on the taglines (“Baby won’t you change your mind,” which finally turns into “Baby I wish I was dead”) she sounds like Julie Delpy looks anywhere.

  4. Jerry Lee Lewis

    interviewed on The History of Rock ’n’ Roll (Time-Life Video & Television, 11 March). For his fabulous impression of William Burroughs.

  5. Sleater-Kinney, Kaia, Eileen Myles, Tattle Tale, Ruby Falls, Azalia Snail

    Move into the Villa Villakula (Villa Villakula, 230a Tremont St. #3, Boston, MA 02116). Stumbles and bruised knees (punctuated by singer-songwriter Kaia finding the right riff in “Off,” or the New York combo Ruby Falls investigating a small mystery in “Spanish Olive”) cover most of this compilation, but Sleater-Kinney’s Carin Tucker, formerly of Heavens to Betsy, may have the most distinctive, demanding voice in pop music today, and once you’ve learned to hear it, every inflection, every silence, tells secrets and wrestles demons. As she muses over the words “When I hear that old song . . . ,” you realize the old song is the song she’s singing, but she’s already put more than a feeling into Boston’s “More Than a Feeling”—try theory, history, fortune-telling.

  6. Red Krayola

    The Red Krayola (Drag City). Leader Mayo Thompson remains as dour as every—this is a man who once called an album The Parable of Arable Land. But the beat is often so odd, and so impossible to shake, that you might find yourself trying to keep time well after a song is over, even into the next track, which really confuses things.

  7. Fakes

    Real Fiction (Chainsaw, P.O. Box 42600, Portland, OR 97242). An artfully crude rock opera about child abuse, orchestrated by Kathleen Hanna but whipcracked three times by the is-it-real-or-is-it-recovered-memory testimony of Billie Strain (“Held”). Sue Fox (“Burnt Girl”), and Angie (“Secret Weapon”), not to mention Phyllis, credited as the Voice of Reason. “Why do the indie boys like women who sing like angels or children?” asks a jacket note; these women sound like people you hear talking on the street, every day.

  8. Bush

    “Everything Zen” from Sixteen Stone (Trauma). Inflamed. Less ugly and less elegant than Nine Inch Nails, but more convincing.

  9. Shawn Colvin

    “Viva Las Vegas,” on Till the Night Is GoneA Tribute to Doc Pomus (Forward/Rhino). Sheryl Crow really is everywhere: as if she can’t help herself, Colvin turns “Viva Las Vegas” into “Leaving Las Vegas.” And comes out ahead of the song.

  10. Guy Debord

    Mémoires (Les Belles Lettres, 95 blvd. Raspail, 75006 Paris). When Debord shot himself last November 30, he had completed the return to print of almost all his published work, including this legendary book: a collage of commonplace illustrations and text fragments, none containing a word Debord had written, all overpainted by Asger Jorn in bright colors, the result being an accurate and poetic account of Debord’s life in Paris in 1952 and 1953: a time and a place, as he wrote elsewhere, “where the negative held court.” The drifting streaks of paint, the looming fields of white space, the half-sentences chasing their missing endings and being forced to settle for yet another sentence’s beginning—the pleasure of nostalgia was already there in 1958, when the book first appeared, and it is present now, along with the cold wit that led Debord to disguise an altogether readable book as an unreadable antibook. “‘I wanted to speak the language of my century,’” Debord quoted the last line of Mémoires in his 1993 introduction to this 2,300-copy reissue, not quite quoting himself. “ I wasn’t so concerned with being heard.”