Demos of the Week: Love Cuts & Tweens
By Erika Elizabeth
There’s been a lot of debate here on Collapse Board this past week about the significance of the iconography and image that bands choose to cultivate for themselves. As much as we might like to divorce the implications of these aesthetic decisions from how the music itself should be received, the reality is that these signifiers often have a powerful impact on the way we respond, positively or negatively, to the entire musical package. Just as many of the pioneering post-punk bands like The Raincoats and Delta 5 immediately drew me in because of the greater visibility they afforded to the personal politics of gender and sexuality, the affected aggression and nihilism of Iceage’s neo-post-punk aesthetic completely alienates me on an ideological level before even getting into how little the music itself speaks to me (my irritation at how “post-punk” has become a catch-all term for any run of the mill aggressive punk band who happens to listen to as much Joy Division as Black Flag is a topic for another day).
Discovering the music of women stepping into roles that they had previously felt were off-limits, who had to learn how to play music as they went along because they hadn’t been afforded the privileges of many of their male peers, who put out records that didn’t try to hide their limitations when it came to conventional technical skill – this was shocking and empowering for me, because it rejected the narrow frames of reference that I had previously been exposed to. A band made up of four white men toying with imagery that has historically been used to marginalize and oppress groups that they can’t identify with and wrapping it in the guise of “not meaning anything”? Sadly, that’s just another reflection of what goes on every day in our larger society, and as such, it’s not shocking, it’s just depressing.
Both of the bands whose demos that I want to talk about this week operate within very specific and familiar genre aesthetics, but they’re ones that, for me, provoke in fun and inspiring ways. And as important as it is to call people on their bullshit, having something that is exciting (for all of the right reasons) to counteract the negativity is equally important.
On that note, let’s talk about how much the latest offering from Vancouver’s Love Cuts positively affects me. Their new +2 -1 EP is the product of three women bashing out punky, unpolished indie-pop not entirely removed from their geographic godmothers Cub (with a little spiritual guidance from the ladies of C86 they’ve paid tribute to by borrowing their band name from a Flatmates song), and believe me when I tell you that it’s more fierce than the knife-toting boys of Iceage could ever hope to be. Off-kilter girl gang vocals that recall The Shaggs transplanted to the early 90s Pacific Northwest, splitting the difference between sugary sweet and snotty sass (get a load of that infectious “GIMME EXTRA!” exhortation on the three-chords-or-less stomper ‘Extra’), with utterly unpretentious charm for days. Citing a band’s lack of skill can too often turn into a backhanded compliment of sorts, a way to reduce them to some exaggerated starry-eyed caricature, but Love Cuts’ simplicity and honesty is what makes them so striking to me – it gives me hope for all of the other women out there who are trying to form bands and start their own pop revolutions on a foundation of shaky drum beats and tangled harmonies, which is often the punkest thing you can do.
Tweens hail from Cincinnati, Ohio and play the sort of strain of garage-punk doo-wop trash-pop for all you true believers out there who prefer for your prom punch to be a little spiked. Their first live performance, available as a short and sweet Bandcamp EP, reveals more about the band through their choice of cover songs than any review possibly could: The Pleasure Seekers’ teenage alcoholic garage rock anthem ‘What A Way To Die’, girl group touchstones from The Ronettes’ ‘(The Best Part of) Breakin’ Up’ to The Dixie Cups’ ‘I’m Gonna Get You Yet’ to The Shirelles’ ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’, all with hopeless romantic harmonies and lovingly wrapped in a layer of blown-out fuzz. They’ve just posted two proper non-cover recordings that pay tribute to the long Midwestern tradition of snotty bubblegum punk from boys and girls up to no good – when singer/guitarist BB Tween tells her too-kind love interest in ‘Be Mean’ that “loving you is such a bore”, I’d like to believe that Nikki & The Corvettes are somewhere smiling.