Moments in which a band completely and unconditionally transforms the way you think about the world are exceedingly rare.
I’m speaking about junctures at which songs begin to turn your life upside down and capsize notions that you had once previously held dear. These songs do not just give you answers; they force you to start asking entirely different questions.
These are the kinds of songs with guitar riffs that shiver your spine, drum fills that make you cringe with joy, and bass lines that make you move in ways you never thought your awkward body was capable of.
These are the kinds of songs that grease the gears of our lives and make it possible to endure the tides of doubt, cynicism, and violence which rise with such frequency these days.
These are the kinds of songs that keep you company when you can’t fall asleep at night but are too smart to drag yourself into the living room to watch bad television.
These are the kinds of songs that call you out on your transgressions.
They feel like an old friend. One with whom you can still share a laugh and a doting hug in spite of how much the two of you have changed over the years. In fact, such change feels inconsequential because beneath all of the small talk and nostalgia remains something monumental and persistent which pushes you forward through the smoke and the shit.
Shit like getting called “faggot” by the bullies at school, struggling to figure out how to be a boy without being a goddamn predator, or failing to be a consistent ally as my friends dealt with issues of sexual assault.
These songs were with me through it all, cajoling me to always confront my privilege and to peel back and discard the layers of patriarchy, heterosexism, and cissexism which have been so unfortunately diffused through my identity.
All it takes is to pull a Bikini Kill seven inch off the shelf and read the words “Come here baby let me kiss you like a boy does!” or drop the needle on a Smiths record and hear Morrissey croon “I’m a girl and your a boy” and the aching questions are soon to follow:
How to be white but anti-racist? How to be heterosexual but not heteronormative? How to be a boy but reject chauvinism and gender rigidity?
How can I be a good ally and is that even enough?
Sometimes all I can do to keep myself from retreating into another late night of bad television is to write another silly punk rock song.* Maybe this can be another one to help us through the smoke and the shit:
I used to have a favorite song when I was a kid
It talked about all of the stupid things that fucked up boys did
I would stand over my record player and crank it up real loud
So I could hear Kathleen Hanna scream “Don’t you try to fake me out!”1
And let’s not forget what Morrissey said
I could write a fucking essay about The Queen is Dead2 cuz
All those songs and records they taught me that
I don’t have to be a boy if I don’t wanna be
So sing it with me now:
DON’T YOU TRY TO FAKE ME OUT
* If you would like to hear this song, get in touch and I will send you a copy!
1 Bikini Kill, “Rah! Rah! Replica!”, The Anti-Pleasure Dissertation 7″. Kill Rock Stars, 1995
2 The Smiths, The Queen is Dead. Sire Records, 1985.