One time, after flipping past a public television showing of an avant-garde dance troupe that hooted, grunted and wrestled, my father mused to me, "I don't think Jesse Helms would call that art ..., and I don't know if I would either."
I thought of this comment as I listened to the new album Eternally Hard by Bitch and Animal. By the time they got to the lyrics "From the d to the i to the l to the do," (and yes, that spells "dildo," and yes, that's what the song is about, and yes, this indicates the nature of the entire album) it's certain that Bitch and Animal would register poorly on the Helms art-o-meter.
But Ani DiFranco's idea of art is a little different than the Senator's, and thus the NYC-based duo is celebrating their debut release on DiFranco's label, Righteous Babe. Like DiFranco, I think Bitch and Animal aren't half bad -- for whatever off-kilter musical subgenre they fit into.
First off, point of clarification: Bitch and Animal are their names, like Ren and Stimpy or Salt-N-Pepa. They describe their sound as "tribal chick hoedown funk poetry with a political wedge and bass line edge," which is about right.
They layer interesting sound textures in their songs, using African drums or ukuleles, and even when the fiddling falters, their lyrics are funny. They are political in so far as their subject matter is decidedly nonheterosexual, but it's more bravado and comedy than actual politicizing.
I got the feeling that this duo is best seen live, though, where they can put their funky punky shock-art to full effect. They remind me of a group like Southern Culture on the Skids -- a little over-the-top fun, jokey not altogether bad music but best seen live. But whereas SCOTS throws out fried chicken at their performances, Bitch and Animal probably throw out multi-colored dildos.
Even listening to Eternally Hard on CD, you're never quite sure how seriously to take these "sex-positive hyper-beings." The first track, entitled "The Best Cock on the Block," is essentially a sort of tongue-in-cheek lesbian gangsta rap. In one of her truly inspired moments, Animal raps "You like `em real big/ I got a gmc brand/ You like `em little/ I got a mini pickle."
Are these grrrls entirely serious? With Bitch and Animal, the line between sincerity and self-caricature is blurry. In occasional moments of absolute seriousness, they sing bittersweetly about gender and relationships.
But, yeah, this album is ridiculous, and yeah, if you prefer your discussions of female anatomy to be limited to the doctor's office, you might not be interested.
But if you're looking for a potential new cult-favorite or a small chuckle, you just might have found it.
The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at email@example.com.
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