PRINT October 1997


Greil Marcus

Greil Marcus is a contributing editor of Artforum.


    Daft Punk Homework (Virgin); Various Artists: KAOS Theory: 89.3 Olympia Community Radio (K). Ages ago there was a record called something like “Radio KAOS!”—a satire of hysterical Top 40 DJs so on the mark it jumped like the best radio station on earth. Started in 1973, broadcasting out of Evergreen State College in Washington state, KAOS-FM, here represented in a compilation of on-air performances, is at least 89.3 percent for real. (“I was going out with Henry Ford/And you, you were seeing Henry Thoreau,” Matthew Hattie Hein and Christine Denk, two singers recall on “I’ll Never Learn.” “I said, ’We’ve got a lot in common.’”) But it’s Daft Punk who truly act out the broadcast of dreams. The best pop group in the history of Paris—not that there’s been much competition since the days of Royer Collard and the Doctrinaires—this techno duo works with unparalleled muscle and depth. Their textures are thick, their sound all but bottomless, and unlike the currently more celebrated Prodigy and Chemical Brothers, musically they never preen. Listening, you feel as if you’re tuning in to a broadcast that began long ago and will circle around long after you’ve forgotten how to find your way back to its unmarked spot on the dial.


    “Don’t Bet Money Honey” (Canadian American, 1961, on various collections). For “You Don’t Own Me,” Lesley Gore is credited with the first breath of feminism in rock ’n’ roll—the first female “fuck off.” Coming off the pleasingly gooey “I’ve Told Every Little Star,” this favorite of Arthur Godfrey, later a music teacher at the New York Christian Academy, had it down two years earlier, and with a cooler tone. With her small voice shaping the title phrase—“Don’t bet money, honey/Our love will last”—it’s as if she’s just in it for the sex.


    Leave it to Me (Knopf). Mukherjee’s last book, The Holder of the World, is a great visionary novel. Complete with a courtroom “That was no lady, that was my wife!” joke, this is more like a comic book novel—starring adopted Debby DiMartino as self-named Devi Dee, fearless wisecracking avenger bent on the unmasking and destruction of her birth parents. There’s lots of cheap sex and violence, but what really inflames twenty-three-year-old Devi, prospecting in a Bay Area milieu dominated by her parents’ generation, is sanctimony: that old ’60s canard that anyone who wasn’t there was born too late. Her parents abandoned her in India, on the old pot trail—how could they? “Think Vietnam,” says Ham, a Berkeley film producer Devi has seduced because Jess, a woman who was Ham’s lover before Devi was conceived and might be his lover still, might also be Devi’s mother. “Rent the Apocalypse Now video if you can’t think. You made your life one continuous flying fuck or you didn’t survive the times.” “And how do you protest the war by doing dope on an alien continent?” Devi asks herself. “That didn’t make sense.” But “It had to Jess in her twenties; it still did. It made all the sense in the world to anyone her age, Ham’s age . . . those who had survived and owned up to what war’d really done for them, how it’d freed them to be themselves, to curse and fuck and burn and loot, to kill or die, to feel superior while having fun.”


    Lives of the Saints (Mud). This Champaign-Urbana female trio are fabulous complainers (“Buttercup”) and world-class leapers. Witness their doubled version of “Rebel Girl,” a strummed 1:14 on Joe Hill’s Wobbly-era original and 2:34 worth of grunge on Bikini Kill’s 1992 rewrite. Who else has realized both songs hinge on the question of the right clothes?

  5. 10,000 MANIACS

    “More Than This” (Geffen). Tiresias had been both man and woman; when asked which was capable of greater pleasure, he said woman. Less covering than joining Bryan Ferry’s stilled and drifting erotic reverie—with Roxy Music in 1982, his highest moment—Mary Ramsey makes the case for perfect equality.


    From the One You Left Behind (Parasol). Very catchy Swedish boy pop that has no trouble rising to its titles: “Girlfriend,” “Wendy,” “Pin-up.” Two steps away from the Friends soundtrack, but only one step away from the irresistible Norwegian boy pop of A-ha’s “Take on Me.”


    A Riot of Our Own—Night and Day with the Clash (Indigo, Wellington House, 125 Strand, London WC2R OBB). The tour diary is not the richest music-book genre. This touching, angry, uproarious tale sustains 238 pages because it never lets go of the notion that as one day follows another something more than a pop group’s career might be at stake.


    Dilate and Living in Clip (Righteous Babe). Alanis Morissette may have glommed her act from DiFranco. It’d be to DiFranco’s credit if she made Morissette sound like an unwitting self-parody, but for that you have to go to the Morissette-sound-alike Sprite commercial.


    Time Out of Mind (Columbia). A Western. It starts with Clint Eastwood’s face at the end of Unforgiven, then turns around and heads back east like bad weather.