two feminist punk/post-punk classics, and some thoughts on youtube

I spend a lot of time trolling YouTube for obscure punk, post-punk, darkwave, and associated fringe music. It’s a compulsion, although I remain conflicted over listening to this music without paying for it. If YouTube was like an all-you-can-eat buffet where you paid one price and could gorge on as much music as you wanted, I would gladly pay that fixed price (provided it went directly to the musicians). And frankly, I’m surprised YouTube has not yet gone the subscription route, though I suspect such a fate is not far off. The fact is that I cannot afford to individually support every musician I listen to on YouTube by buying their music, if it’s even still available for purchase, which it very often is not since most of these bands are inactive and/or have no web presence. And I should clarify that I do still pay for music. If there is a band that I really enjoy and find myself repeatedly wanting to listen to their music, I will seek them out and if their music is available to purchase somewhere I will buy it. But with many of the bands I find, I’m just sampling them and moving on. Only a select few do I find myself returning to listen again. In this respect YouTube is a good place to do music research, and so perhaps it’s not such a bad thing if it leads to people buying music they otherwise would not have known about. With that in mind here are a couple of my recent finds below. And I should add, as many music-uploading YouTube users often do: if you like these bands, please support them by buying their albums! The Au Pairs albums can be hard to find but they are still out there in various formats. And the Poison Girls website offers most of their releases as downloads, with a PayPal ‘honesty box’ for payments.

Au Pairs – Fronted by lesbian-feminist Lesley Woods, whose lyrics both skewered sexual and social politics and celebrated sexuality from a woman’s perspective, the Au Pairs played post-punk occasionally reminiscent of Gang of Four, with its prominent funk-inspired bass and trebly guitar. Their second LP ‘Sense and Sensuality’ found them straying even more into jazz and funk territory. Here’s a fantastic live track from that album. Also check out this episode of Post Punk Britain from earlier this year featuring an interview with Woods, a playlist chosen by her (including several Au Pairs songs), and a new song she recorded for the show.

Poison Girls – An anarcho-punk band led by Vi Subversa, a middle-aged mother of two, Poison Girls were early contemporaries of Crass and recorded their first single on Crass Records. But they weren’t a typical anarcho-punk band (if there is such a thing), and later went their own musical way. From what I’ve read of their story, it’s more interesting than that of Crass and the rest of that milieu, but I’m always more captivated by the outsiders, even in a scene already far outside the mainstream. Vi’s lyrics, capturing the perspective of a smart woman growing older as she continues to rail against the patriarchy, communicated an experience not commonly heard at the time in punk music. And the music was certainly not run-of-the-mill, either.

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7 Comments

  1. YouTube is sometimes neglected as a music source. It’s a great way to find music. Bandcamp is good too but limited at times. Nice to see you mentioned Au Pairs.

    Reply
    • Yeah, I like Bandcamp, especially the way the band pages are laid out. But I’ve never used it to search for new music, only to visit specific band pages. I don’t think I even realized it had a search function until I looked at it just now. Hmm.

      Reply
  2. Funnily enough, I have an as yet unpublished draft Pantry post on this very subject, which in part goes like this: ‘As with many of the web’s biggest concerns, I have always been in two minds about it – resistant to their hegemony and to being bombarded with advertising, but appreciative of the relatively democratic nature of its content and the way it has enabled its users to rescue nuggets and gems from the pre-WWW age. I still dislike it aesthetically, and the ads are nothing but a pain, but as a vast and ongoing feat of collective curatorial effort, it’s only surpassed by Wikipedia.’

    Which completely overlooks the issues about artists getting paid for their music, but I tend to think of it along the same lines as home taping, which never actually killed music (as the music industry liked to suggest) any more than mp3s or YouTube will, for precisely the reasons you outline above.

    Reply
    • Yes, aesthetically it’s a nightmare but somehow I’m able to look past that. The ads seem less pervasive than they used to be, or perhaps the more obscure the music the less ads you encounter? I rarely come across those pre-video full commercials anymore, just the occasional pop-up.

      It does fill a similar role to home taping, and that never reduced my music purchasing either. If anything it fueled it.

      Nowadays I do miss the album as physical object—I rarely buy them anymore—but at this point in my life I’m trying to drastically minimize the number of physical objects I own. I just reorganized my CD collection and found myself wondering why I still have them at all. The vinyl is a different story—I’m not ready to part with it, but still not adding to it.

      Reply
  3. I love Au Pairs!

    Reply
    • Mo-Dettes, The Slits, also great, although I’ve mainly been shoegazing with Slowdive lately.

      Reply
      • Yes to Slits! Didn’t know Mo-Dettes, so thanks for that.

        Slowdive is great. I saw them on tour last December and they were fantastic. I had my usual doubts about reunions, but they destroyed those as soon as they started playing. Plus they are recording a new album, which always lends legitimacy to a reunion beyond just a way to make some quick cash on a few shows.

        Reply

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