Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Let's Talk About Homosexual Death Drive Baby

Sunshine EP 

Homosexual Death Drive

                                Sunshine cover art

I swoon over Robert Mapplethorpe with a bullwhip up his arse and Vaginal Crème Davis shrimping someone's feet and my sisters Lindsay Lohan and Samantha Ronson fighting in the street.’ – Theme, Homosexual Death Drive

I first saw Homosexual Death Drive perform in a squat in Camberwell some four years ago. I vaguely recall glittering golden shorts, Kayisgay’s Mexican wrestling mask and Charlotte Cooper’s Melodica. I believe there was also a miniature city made of cardboard which the pair terrorised then destroyed. What I remember very clearly is how they blew me away right from the first unholy refrain of their opening song, 'Theme', which goes like this: ‘First we fuck you/Then we kill you/Then we shit you/Then we eat you’. All against the sinister, unsettling, no-fi noise of toy instruments and retro electronica reminiscent of a satanic early 90s’ computer game. I was in love.

Homosexual Death Drive are a force badly needed in contemporary queer culture. They are two fat, older, feminist dykes writing unsettling and inappropriate songs. A disruptive presence in a scene that can be rather young, skinny and safe.
It would be easy to listen to the Sunshine EP from a detached, objective music journalist perspective and describe it simply as ‘disturbing’. I mean, it is, in some ways. And yet I listen to it and I can’t help but feel uplifted. This may seem contradictory given that the title track is a song about childhood sexual abuse with lyrics that do not skirt around the issue: ‘My babysitter stuck his fingers in me/Like a fireball master key/What it means I cannot see’. These lyrics kick in after an up-tempo intro of chirpy but discordant recorders, which continue throughout the track, making it sound like a demonic kids’ party. The track speaks partly of the weight of what happened (‘lifetime on my hands and knees’) but also of ambivalence (‘What it means I cannot see – oh sunshine/If I was there now what would I say?’) before concluding on the survival note of ‘It didn’t kill me/It didn’t kill me/It didn’t kill me’ which is, of course, a relief to hear. But then I think the whole song is about living - the catharsis of telling a story so frankly and unapologetically, uncensored and unrestrained by the way the survivor is supposed to express -or supposed to keep silent about- what they’ve been through. Although perhaps the ending is needed to give both singer and listener a chance to breathe.

The aforementioned ‘Theme’ is an ominous anti-social manifesto of queer nihilism which pours a gasoline over both hetero- and homo-normativity, then throws a match. All the lyrics are wonderful, I pretty much just want to quote the entire song, but you might as well just read them for yourselves. I will be repeating them to myself in front of the mirror every morning as affirmations.
‘Dead’ is my favourite track on the ep because I’m such a soggy biscuit and it makes me cry. Whilst ‘Sunshine’ and ‘Theme’ have a perversely queer carpe diem thing going on, ‘Dead’ has it overtly – it’s a secular hymn to being alive right now and talks about the death of Charlotte’s brother, at 24 (‘Got fucked up, crashed a car/Didn’t crawl from the wreckage’). It concludes: ‘When you’re dead you’re dead/It doesn’t matter how good you’ve been’. Which sort of sounds like a FAGGOT. lyric too so it must be good.

The joy of Homosexual Death Drive is that they are without shame, or at least they keep it at arm’s length enough to make something so beautiful and horrible as this ep (and I mean both those things in a positive way). They make music out of limited resources, they tell their stories fearlessly and in a way that is funny, painful, dark and true. And that is what being alive should be, no? Particularly in a world which would see many of us queers, survivors, freaks and misfits erased from this universe permanently, or at least censored, watered-down and tamed.

Official EP Launch - 22nd November (Launch event details  here -
(HDD are multimediaists. In addition to recording songs for their ep they have done a Beyoncé and made videos for them all. The videos add an extra dimension to the songs, enhancing the disturbing or beautiful elements, much like an acid trip. The video to ‘Sunshine’ is particularly acid trip like and watching it makes the track all the more intense. It’s shot on a disorientatingly shaky camera in a small English seaside town. Charlotte’s incredible Technicolor rainbow dress flaps in the wind and her hair blows wildly against the seafront, whilst a masked Kay makes for a sometimes claustrophobic and oppressive presence, but the feelings of optimism and life pour out at the end, as they do in the song itself. The ‘Theme’ video is pure filth – dirty doodles of spurting cocks and tits and shit and other fun fluids. ‘Dead’ is a very lovely under water video of Charlotte naked-swimming.)