YOU ALREADY KNOW DOE | close yr heart forever @ 285

#POIDH is not a viable life philosophy.  You only live once, that’s the motto / make it yolo.

ddd

285 KENT – BROOKLYN (10/5/13)

Sexual assault is, at its heart, an attempt to construct community by means of violence and force.  It is always, necessarily, a failure: community requires willing participation, and assault by definition violates will.  Assault tries to create a system where one body is violated and the other remains unscathed.  It doesn’t work, and it results in two isolated bodies: one defined by the exclusivity of it’s own will, the other by its anaphylactic opposition to everything around it.

In some ways, punk rock is assault’s opposite.  Punk rock is the creation of community by means of mutually willed violence and force.  Participation in punk is based on the destruction of boundaries by means of two oppositional forces crashing into one another with no apparent regard for the result and, in doing so, opening up the possibility of shared participation in a moment.  Punk is painful but never violating.  More than anything, it’s mutual masochism.  Everyone wants to come out bruised and a little bit bloody.  You only want to hurt someone so that they can come out bloody too.

Punk rock is very much about feeling something, so it’s strange (but not especially surprising) to see an EP called “I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling.”  This is the title of New York-based raw punks Perfect Pussy’s debut demo tape.  It’s a very good tape.  It came out earlier this year but didn’t make Best New Music until two weeks ago.  They played their second post-Pitchfork show this past Saturday in Brooklyn and it’s hard to say where most of the crowd came from. You can never tell what disaffected young people are thinking.  They could have been loyal fans, or interested newcomers, or kids who just ended up half-drunk in a Williamsburg back alley with nothing to do.

None of them seemed to know any of the lyrics, at least.  That’s understandable – Perfect Pussy haven’t really made things easy.  “I Have Lost All Desire…” was recorded live in Syracuse with no-fi equipment and lots of feedback.  Instead of song titles, it has roman numerals.  If one wanted to know what Meredith Graves was shouting about, one would have to go to Perfect Pussy’s Bandcamp and click on the “lyrics” tab.  There are lyrics posted there.  They aren’t very fun:

my best friend is back in town.  there’s a bad taste in my mouth.  her eyes fell low and heavy with shame and cum.  she must have been desperate; she acted so lonely.  she is deserving of affection, i am glad that she found love.

i’ll be fifty in the book of names but goddamn it, i’ll be the last on the list.  someday i’ll stop begging you of who and how.  first i was stronger, then i was softer, now i am frightened, look at me now.

i’ve been talking shit about your friend.  i’ve been lying to get attention.  thankfully none of it ever happened – nothing ever really happens.  I have a habit of telling extravagant lies; ask anyone, they’ll tell you.  so why didn’t i come forward, why didn’t i?

“I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling” is a record about sexual assault – or, at least, about an emotionally abusive sexual relationship.  Whether it’s a personal account, or a fictionalized narrative, or a commentary on something that happens, it is centered around the event and aftermath of abuse.  Unearthed, the lyrics change everything.  The band name becomes a little less funny and the EP title becomes a lot less ironic.

ddd

I don’t know how many people bothered to do their reading before turning up at 285 Kent on Saturday.  I don’t know if words were on anyone’s minds.  I don’t know if they were even on the band’s minds.  Potty Mouth played a fun set.  The DJ played “Move Bitch.”  The kids with wristbands drank Budweiser and Pacifo.  Everyone seemed cheery.

“Isn’t this terrifying?” Meredith Graves said into her microphone as a layer of painful feedback loops started up, and everyone crowded in.  Half the audience seemed to be girls in Smith t-shirts, but suddenly they were nowhere to be seen.  Within a minute the front was filled with sweaty boys who chugged beers as they tossed themselves around and crashed into one another.  Cans got thrown, drinks got spilled.  Things calmed down for the new songs and picked back up for the hits.  It was just like any other punk show.  Everyone came out happy and exhausted and a little bit closer to deaf.  There were smiles all around.

On one hand it seems deeply problematic to turn someone else’s horrific personal experience – an experience that, more likely than not, the young men in the front row of 285 Kent will never have – into an excuse for a fun evening.  But Graves never glared at them, or offered snide criticism, or seemed to be in any way disgusted.  She looked more or less like a rock star, and she seemed thrilled to look down and see a bunch of kids having a lot of fun to her music.  She had created, for the twenty minutes or so that her set lasted, what every good punk singer knows how to create – a moment of violently ecstatic communication.

For Perfect Pussy, that moment of communication is built upon the lowest point of isolation and horror, a point when community is destroyed by absolute self interest and hatred.   How strange is it to open oneself up to violence and painful communication to an account of the harshly defined individuality that comes as the aftermath of assault?  To empathize with the music would be to experience what Emmanuel Levinas calls the “allergy to the other,” the solipsistic clamming up that one undergoes when an outside force violates one’s sense of self.  The sympathetic response to a first-person account of assault is to experience isolation, not to toss oneself into a moment where pushing, kicking, choking, and screaming in others faces are considered productive modes of communication.  Moshing to music about sexual assault doesn’t seem right.

Punk rock isn’t about doing things right, though, and on Saturday night everyone at 285 Kent was having an ecstatically good time to an unsettling account of sexual violation.  This could be written off as typical punk rock nihilism, but I don’t think that it is.  I didn’t feel any disdain in the room.  There was only celebration.  Not celebration of the horrific loss of community that accompanies sexual assault, but a celebration of the community that exists in spite of it.  Perfect Pussy’s music takes a narrative of deep hopeless isolation and converts it into the groundwork for community.  It turns the threat of violence into a promise.  It reaffirms every sweaty boy’s sense of unendangered community.  Did they realize that the words to the song that they were beating each other up to are “there’s no room in this world for people who hate men, fuck you”?  Probably not.  But Meredith Graves didn’t seem to care.

“I am full of light, I am filled with joy, I am full of peace, I had a dream that I forgave my enemies,” she sings on track I.  In the context of the record it seems sarcastic.  Live, it felt genuine.  Ultimately I suppose it’s both.  “I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling” is a four-song ode to the obliteration of hope and community.  But it’s also the groundwork for their rebirth.

ddd

References:

Perfect Pussy.  “I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling.”  Self-released.  2013.

Ian Cohen.  “Perfect Pussy – ‘I'” (review).  Pitchfork.  September 26, 2013.

Potty Mouth Bandcamp.

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One comment

  1. There are so many problems with this.

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