So Androgynous (2005, Exotic
from the song titles and playwright/songwriter/activist Gina Young's
shaved head on the CD cover one immediately sniffs femme-core of
some sort but I already suspected as much being familiar with her
debut album Intractable. Subject material on She's
So Androgynous remains the same: woven tales of political disgust,
alienation, heartbreak, hatred for large, predatory corporate conglomerations
and anti-war sentiments. Unlike her last LP, however, Gina displays
a wide range of abilities and tricks on this effort, perhaps as
a result of a full(er) band and several special appearances.
The band (yes, it's actually a collective of musicians)
breaks the ice with a short introduction and a couple of rowdy nuggets
of chunky-punky indie rock, not unlike Team Dresch or Sleater Kinney.
But this energetic side more or less comes to an abrupt halt, never
to appear again on the rest of the album. 'An Open Letter To The
President' is just that, a seething diatribe aimed at the current
administration, George W. in particular, amidst a cadenced drum
beat and guitar riff. Young apparently refused to print the lyrics
in the liner notes due to some backlash in the political community,
claiming that haughty conservatives will 'have to listen to the
song in its entirety and transcribe it for' themselves. You go girl.
Gina's lyrics are ridiculously bland and passe. See 'Lou's Song'
where she sings 'sometimes I wake up in the night and I just hate
my fucking life' delivered in a terribly melodramatic manner. Ew.
Normally I pay more attention to the actual music than the lyrics
but there has to be a more interesting way to express the concept
of loathing one's life. However, this song stands up on 3 feet if
you were to only pay attention to the fantastic jittery cello work
provided by Madigan Shive. Wow. 'I Picture You' finds Ms. Young
at her most folky and Difranco-esque in vocal delivery (you'd think
it was an entirely different person singing) and subtle picked guitar
lines. She coos sweetly on 'Punkrockdyke' while a friend, Marissa
Ragonese, waxes a free-form passage in the background. Somehow they
manage to pull this off without sounding like a horseradish and
jelly sandwich even though they each touch on completely different
subjects - Gina sings about her concern and love for an old friend,
Marissa lays on a political rant. Odd stuff. The best track on the
album, 'My Generation', is saved for near the end of the album and
serves as a political manifesto for the current leftist state. Think
of almost any rally cry leading up to the Iraq War and '04 election
and it's touched upon here - anti-complacency, convenience over
sacrifice (cell phones and the boob tube take a beating), Bush's
blaring shortsightedness and inefficiency, the Carlyle Group &
Halliburton et al. Sure, nothing new to extract if you are the least
bit politically-conscious but at least you are assured of Gina's
conviction and passion by the overall tone and presentation of the
she's really on, other times she fails miserably, see the abovementioned
lyrical faux pas (there are more) or 'Cuts' with its half-rapped/half-bansheed
breakdown. Ugh. She's So Androgynous is certainly one of
the more interesting queercore/dyke rock albums I've heard in recent
years though I do not expect this to be appealing to anyone put
off by the genre as a whole. It appears Gina will be playing out
on the Warped tour this year and that might garner her more attention.
Nevertheless, this album is truly an all or nothing affair.