Music Review: De Stijl music reissues Diazepam Nights, Helot Revolt and Glen Meadmore
There is a greater and greater presence of openly LGBT musical artists today performing in the public gaze and, as the years have gone by, the arrival of a queer artist garners less and less vocal protests. A few decades ago, there were no provocative MTV lesbian makeout sessions or yawn-inducing pop stars teasing their bisexuality. One day, maybe even tomorrow, children will be singing nursery rhymes along with Jayne County, but in the early days of homocore/queercore, artists had to discover ways to flourish without a mainstream spotlight. After years of glam and drag’s crossover into rock and roll scenes, it took a particular set of individuals to turn up the dial on expressing what it meant to be gay in the underground. Adopting the punk DIY aesthetic was a necessity for a whole generation of musicians, not a fashion statement or an affectation. Now, to fill a demand from collectors and to expose a new generation of listeners to some forgotten pieces of the Queercore history, De Stijl Music, founded by longtime LA fixture Jack Curtis Dubowsky, has released three entirely unique records rescued and remastered from the archives.
Jack Dubowsky’s solo effort, Diazepam Nights, was a dreamy new wave project with piano based tunes that share an affinity with ’80s groups like Felt and Tears for Fears. Released in 1989, the album is filled with songs of longing and unrequited love. Some of the tracks are burdened by sentimental and fairly simplistic lyrics about heartbreak and frustration, however Dubowsky demonstrates real ability to craft melody on successful tracks like “Its My World” and “Green Discord.” The real high point may be the track “July 4, 1988” which is a kind of dystopian science fiction soundtrack instrumental that would have been at home on the B-side to Bowie’s Low, or even on a Goblins record.
A later work by Dobowsky, Helot’s Revolt’s In Your Face / Up Your Butt (1991) was a self-described fag hair metal band. Part statement piece, part performance act act, Helots music reminds one of Wayne County fronting Guns N’ Roses. It’s a transparent act of taking the androgyny of hair metal, removing the macho posturing, and getting back to the gutsy in-your-face attitude of the New York Dolls. Interestingly, the best track on the album is the unusual “I like Marines” that just isn’t particularly metal at all and centers around a catchy pop guitar riff paired with the sound of cannons. The lyrics are in the vein of Spinal Tap, raunchy and completely fucking ridiculous.
Lastly is Glen Meadmore’s Hot, Horny & Born Again, an album with roots in traditional country. The album cover was painted by John Wayne Gacy, with whom Glen Meadmore corresponded during the 1980s. Hot, Horny & Born Again is a little bit of Jimmie Rodgers, folksy southern music like The Carters might have produced electrified through rock and roll, occasionally diverting into new wave territory. The stories are framed ironically through the posture of the romantic mythical southern outlaw. Glen took the leather and spurs of country to a very irreverent and anti-macho place. There are revved up, high-energy tunes like the undeniably great “Glory Hole” and “Sassy,” and there are tracks like “Blow You,” which begins with a moody psychedelic turn, repeating a simple lyric about detached sexual encounters and gradually transforming into the sentimental evangelical hymn, “Eternal Love.” Another standout is the slow-building shoegaze of “Never Make You Mind,” which peaks with sleazy, raucous guitar.
While the number of musical artists coming out of the closet in the mainstream and alternative continues to multiply, its an an excellent time to crack open the vault on the queer artists who paved the trail through the DIY and indie scene. While varying wildly in tone and style, these De Stijl releases provide a glimpse into the sub-basement of the underground and they are available now through iTunes, Amazon, and CDBaby.