I don’t particularly want to be alive right now.
#MeToo and its related movements have scorched through the progressive landscape and shone a discomforting spotlight on Straight White Maleness, to which I’m told I belong. “Men suck!” I proclaim! Aggro, hulking, dumb, smelly, loud, smug, overbearing, overly confident men. There’s nothing about these guys that makes me want to spend more time thinking about them, but it can’t be avoided thanks to the dank rot being dredged up on the daily.
It’s good then that men are getting their moment in the hot seat, right? But that’s also where the problematic part kicks in. Suddenly, I find myself dumped into the same bucket as these jerks, the same Sports Cultists who bullied me in elementary school, and now I’ve got to look at myself and think, “Am I really one of these people?!” The progressive Straight White Men have been taking the movement well: some of them brush it off with an “I’m not the SWM that they’re talking about here, so I’m good”, while others (namely the single men and the married-to-a-dominant-partner men) take up the cause with enormous enthusiasm and swoop down to obliterate the Straight White Monster of the Day, perhaps hoping for a higher rank in the Women-Owned Future To Come.
But maybe, for me, this loathing toward men exists for a simpler reason. Maybe it’s because I’ve managed to cage and tame my baser impulses, that filthy animal mind, in order to live in a civilized society, and maybe there’s a lingering but gnawing jealousy toward those who ogle and can’t keep their mouths shut and their hands to themselves. Maybe that caged inner creature wants nothing more than to holler at the baes of the streets all the time. Maybe it wants to wreak havoc on decency. Maybe we ARE all monsters.
If now is Man’s time to get eviscerated, my only wish is that everyone were so incredibly brilliant at dismembering us as U.S. Girls. In a Poem Unlimited is not a jumping-on-the-bandwagon album; Meghan Remy masterfully served up song-length tales of jerk-ish men on her previous album, Half Free. This new release, however, ratchets it up into a beautiful dance-crazed fervor.
A first listen allows for an easy glide through: Remy’s voice is light as a lemon frosting glazed over a kind of disco-funk that lets you get your innocuous groove on without a second thought. But the blogosphere had A LOT of thoughts. This is a well–covered album, and that’s due to the next couple listens that reveal the lyrical depth its music had been masking.
Each track holds a tale. “Rage of Plastic” (a revamped and saxophone-ripped version of a “Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”-era Bob Dylan-style ballad by Canadian musician, Simone Schmidt) dives into the industrial wastes that make barren a woman’s womb and thus evaporate her value in Man’s eyes. “M.A.H.”, or Mad As Hell, pulls off a hazy Blondie sound while holding our previous president’s feet to the fire. “Incidental Boogie” offers up grinding robo-funk that drones hypnotically and sensually over lyrics like:
I still do what I want
And I still do what I like
But now, I got this man to show me that I’m all wrong
He hits me left, he hits me right
All the time, but no marks
No marks, no evidence to see
Don’t you know these days I feel so lucky?
To be brutalized means you don’t have to think
And life is easy when there is only pain to compete
Then, on “Poem”, Remy reveals something of a mission statement over arpeggiated synths: “We know it in our bones / All blood flows the same / So what are we gonna do to change?”
There’s one song in particular that grabs me by the brain and shakes me around like a chicken in a gator’s jaws. After a hip-hoppy blast, “Pearly Gates” kicks off to take down Men and God alike. It’s inspired. The narrator of the song ends up staring down St. Peter, the keeper of the gates of heaven.
First, let’s take a step to the right and consider this guy, St. Peter and his book of life. At some point in history, there must’ve been a conversation:
Guy #1: “So, when you die, how will they know whether you should get into heaven or be tossed off into hell?”
Guy #2: “Well… I would assume that something mystical occurs upon death, and your soul ventures off to its proper place, yes? Seems simple enough.”
Guy #1: “That’s abstract AF, man. Alright, how about we put a rigid bureaucrat at the front door of heaven – It’s a gated community, of course – and he’s got this infinitely long book that has all your pluses and minuses or whatever, and then HE makes the decision! Cool, right? Adds some drama to that whole you-just-died sitch.”
So St. Peter’s place in Christian mythology is already rife with absurdity. Remy takes it to the natural next step: There’s a man with infinite authority standing at the gates, some lovely ladies walk up who have a few more minuses than pluses… Would he propose that they could… make some kind of a deal?
“I could do anything St. Peter asked / For one chance to be an angel in his eyes / It seemed to be the safe bet, so I closed my eyes / And I opened my gates wide / And St. Peter came inside”
Basically, she’s put Harvey Weinstein up there as the guardian of the realm of eternal bliss. Anti-Hallelujah! That’s some NEW time religion! The lyrics clearly have sold me on their own, but the chorus of the song rolls in so smoothly it makes you wish that Nate Dogg were still around to Regulate. This is like if he and Warren G flipped sexes and were cruising through the clouds instead of the streets of Long Beach. The song continues: “Never, never be safe even if you’re in the Gates.” We clearly need SOMEONE to pull out their strap and lay them busters down…
It’s creative, it’s musically jammin’, and it takes on an issue with crushing force. Let’s hope that the true artists, like Meghan Remy and her U.S. Girls, carry the torch on this movement, and I’ll be happy as can be while the flames lap their way up my XY chromosome-having body and melt my offensive face away for good.
Rage of Plastics
David C. Casey