Rock is dead, long live rock
- The Who
I'll never forget where I was or what I was doing when I first heard of The Cramp. The year was 1984. I was eighteen and camped out at home in my African-jungle-by-way-of-Sears-bedecked bedroom, thumbing through Rolling Stone magazine, gazing blankly at glossy pics of vacuous, not too terribly rockin' movie and television stars. Somewhere in the record review section my eyes fell upon a thumbnail of the most psychotic album cover I had ever seen, gracing the most illuminating description of music I had ever read. This elvish, marvelously unhinged critic discussed The Cramps' newest release in such glowing terms that I was completely enthralled. He was delirious; gushing over "the shittiest guitar solo" he'd ever heard and quoting couplets from "T.V. Set" as if they were Elizabethan verses crafted by twee miniature dolphin-angels. Suddenly, I got it! Great punk rock is so bad that it's legitimately good, good enough to rate rave reviews by establishment magazines. So I picked up a vinyl copy of The Cramps' Bad Music For Bad People and my musical palate was forever enriched.
As a form of expression, punk rock is inherently queer simply by being digressive. Queer culture always gets co-opted for being ahead of the curve and so does punk. Sometimes punk gets gussied up and expanded upon stylistically, as when The Clash incorporated elements of ska and dub in their early 80s salad days. As with any progressive cultural movement, punk gets pulverized and fed through the grinder only to be repackaged as radio-friendly pablum. Now this is not necessarily a bad thing. Much of what is now considered proto-punk was radio-friendly pablum throughout the Animal House 60s; take for example The Troggs' truly sublime #1 hit, "Wild Thing." The Cramps never had a prayer as far as finding any kind of radio exposure in the Reagan era of Journey and REO Speedwagon but their blood-lust can be heard in the tightly modulated hysteria of The Pixies' "Wave Of Mutilation," in My Bloody Valentine's long-form "shitty guitar solo" album Loveless and even in Nirvana's hopeless "Rape Me." The Cramps were here, they were queer and a lot of people were listening, goddammit. Where was the Casey Kasem American Top 40 love, I ask you?
Little Victory: Just The Band, The Band U Want.
Punk itself is here to stay and will never, ever grow old. By virtue of its inherent and perpetual galling disregard for every little thing, it has established itself a purifier and a revelator. Thus its indelible purpose is to re-set rock and roll whenever it gets stuck in a rut and starts to take itself too seriously. Throughout the past couple months a slew of New York City bands, Making Friendz, Light Asylum and Little Victory to name a few, have been sexing up OWS-era downtown barroom dance-floors with a take-no-prisoners punk rock swagger. Loosely clustered around the unhelpful descriptor 'lo-fi', they have little in common other than occasional drop-in personnel and the fact that they hijack 1980s cultural touchstones such as Ian Curtis and Romeo Void's Deborah Iyall to subvert and to suit their own unique purposes. They gig gay venues but their queer mojo is a natural fact and not a campy, flag-waving disposition or even their raison d'etre. Their sexuality is not specifically target-marketed or polemical. It is however unapologetic and unmistakable. These bands don't strive to serve realness, they simply are what they is.
For me, right now, Little Victory is punk rock parking lot apocalypse. They're The Only Band That Matters Not A Whit. They're John and Exene X grabbing the mic from Stiff Little Fingers, singing odes to Cherie Currie who's too busy feathering her fucking hair in somebody's compact mirror to even know they're alive. Oh and incidentally, they're queer as freak folk. I asked frontman Zan Amparan how The Gay Thing factors into Little Victory's worldview:
"It's hard to judge how other people perceive us but I'm pretty sure that most people probably know I'm gay the moment I start talking, either because I sound, shall we say, 'not quite butch' or because I talk a lot and my references, point of view and subject matter tend to be pretty incredibly homosexual. I wouldn't ever describe our band as militant, I just don't write songs that way, but it would be fair to say that we are all political in our own ways. I mean, a grown man singing about being a young man identifying with bad-ass young women as I do in 'Cool Girls' is pretty undeniably gay."
Undeniably gay or not, the band rocks out with their (strap-on) cocks out. Daniel, Kelly, Massimo and Zan crunch and roll like British Invasion vintage Kinks. Backed by Kelly on drums and Massimo on bass comprising an air-tight, rolling thunder rhythm section, Daniel's guitar stabs and clatters dissonantly giving nuggets like 'Tigers' a Wire circa 1977 bent.
Make no mistake, Little Victory is one tight ship. They've mastered their pop music history just as they've conquered their instruments. And while the band is the nazz, road tested and ready to tour, their four heads are not lodged firmly up their collective ass as one might expect. They're a band in the truest sense of the word. Little Victory is an F Troop of vinyl-hoarding music nerds. Massimo and Kelly, the one-two punch that lays 'em out in the aisles, played together in Love Or Perish. Daniel played alongside Tami Hart in Making Friendz. Astonishingly enough, Zan is new to the scene. While he auditioned for the band by submitting videos of himself performing karaoke, there's not a hint of preening oversell. Zan's lanky hot-boy slink n' pout is low-flame and casual, a grace note to the usual rock star burlesque of sexuality. As a band, they warm up the stage, feeding off each other's energy and having a real good time together. They're street level and approachable. They're Lil' Nothings putting on their X-ray eyes to watch the cool girls smoke just like the rest of us. They're keeping it crucial.
Rock and Roll: So What's Next?
I have seen the future of rock and roll and its name is Little Victory. This future is digressive, danceable and roughly three and a half minutes long. We will hear them on the transistor radio at our local bodega whether we like it our not (let's face it, we love it). Consider ourselves forewarned.