Text and photos by Charles Nickles
What a perfect night for the old bad time…
I miss the skinny yip of nervous jerks that first thrilled me about Gold Standard Laboratories (and to a more bloodthirsty degree, Three One G). The metal choke of wretched six string, the methamphetamine metronomes and the rudding choad of a brass-knuckled bass.
It was the sound of the party gone horribly awry (couch on fire, blood on the floor, dope deal bj going down in the corner) and I was desperate to be invited.
Sure those labels, over time, offered so much more than the sunshine manic and really the root of the white-drug mess I’m lamenting is full-on late 70s NYC but it took me a long, long while to get hip to No New York so you’ll forgive me if seeing Dead Tenants crash down with the bad sex beat doesn’t get me missing those few beautifully lurid (and admittedly bleak) years after college when I buoyed my claims to artistry with self-mutilation and alcohol poisoning and routinely made Midwestern girls mix tapes they were right to hate.
So the first time I was Street Sects was like a goddamn revelation. The post-industrial scrape, the smoke, the strobes, the screams, the beat and pulse of a Rorschach fever dream. It was brutal, brief and goddamn beautiful and all I’ve wanted to do since that night is bring anyone and everyone I love to bear witness.
But, of course, I’m stag this evening.
To either side of me are couples muttering about what is to come. The boy on my left assures his girl “The pit is gonna open the fuck up for this one!” The girl on my right is wondering aloud to her boy, “Do you think they’re actually gonna use those fog machines?”
I mumble “Nah.” and “Fuck yes,” respectively. No one hears me. I sip my beer and grin.
The smoke starts and Girl Right begins to complain. Girl Left mumbles something to Boy Left who responds “They didn’t do this in Richmond.”
More smoke. More confusion and lamentations. The strobes start pulsing.
Girl Right shouts “OKAY, WE GET IT! YOU DON’T HAVE TO BLIND US!”
I laugh and get a withering glare from Boy Right.
The noise sets in, slow and withering. The stage lights dim. Nothing. Nothing now. Pulse and mist. Girl Left seems to be genuinely nervous. Boy Left embraces her in what appears to be a genuine act of chivalry because it’s clear he’s on edge too.
A figure lurches to the center of the stage, facing away.
Black comes. Cold hiss. A perfume of menace.
Girl Left: “This is fucking creepy.”
Boy Left: “It’s okay, they…”
“Just wait for the chainsaw.” I interrupt.
“What the fuck?”
Explosions. Cacophonies. Blonde wigs. Bald sweat. Guitars. A new savage will pissing up the leg of the old noir. Hate writ like epitaphs on a bathroom stall. Crude, true and ill. The story of man undone by his own circuitry, reinvented again and again as feckless possibility. Fucks found. Fucks failed. Hope drowned in boxed wine and Pall Malls and rolled up in carpet like so many rats before him.
And I am fucking beaming, man.
Because I had worried that with the borderline humanity of their last two endeavors (Rat Jacket and The Kicking Mule) that Street Sects might be trying to rest their ludicrous violence but such was not the case.
They are delicious, relentless and terrifying.
And I suppose it’s wrong to call them “fun” but they’re presence and performance are so fucking assaultive they can only inspire fight or flight or glee. Like, imagine Uncle Al (ugh) curbed some of his bastard grammy dopefiend shit to open a haunted house on the site of the last great circus fire and fine-tuned the place with embittered carny kids and the Death by Audio matrix and then…I don’t know…a whole bunch of chickens or some shit.
You’d pay to see that, right?
You know it’d change your life.
Daughters do not like you.
Daughters do not like you.
Daughters do not like you.
And you’ll forgive the reference to the (apparently imagined) trailer for Mike Leigh’s ribald treatise on gender antipathy, Naked, but in the fifteen years since I first saw these five (plus one, now) motherfuckers make a contemptuous mess of basic pleasures in the name of shameless hatefuckery, I’ve come to realize that whether they’re playing pisstake art grind or the Man in Black eating the ass out of The Birthday Party or a slimy combustion of orchestral self-loathing. they’re really playing Johnny.
And Johnny is a piece of shit.
A rapist philosopher spreading misanthropic wonder throughout London, Johnny offers high-minded disgust at every turn of human kindness, rejecting pleasantries for contempt, Christ for conspiracy and kisses for headbutts and – in so doing – he invites violence and pity in equal kind as his night unwinds into a fit that only serves to reassure his sublimely misanthropic reason.
ALL people are shit, his very being assures us, so fuck ‘em.
That’s a repugnant and reductive thesis, I know but watching Johnny eat, fuck, bleed and survive it for two fucking hours for no readily apparently reason beyond the fact that he is and, simply, must be is as riveting and revolting as the most depraved of Greek tragedies.
Do I like the film? Fuck no. I deal with enough ugly every day without ever having to endure the brilliant abyss of the London hopeless, 1993 again but that doesn’t matter does it? Naked is an awe-inspiring work which first introduced me to a particular breed of anarchic cruelty which would help inform my views of art and man (myself included), for better and worse, for the better part of my adult life.
Like has nothing to do with it.
Do I like Daughters?
Well, that’s a silly question, isn’t it?
Daughters are not lkeable. That’s not their M.O. and it never has been. I will be the first to admit that I openly hated them for the better part of their formal iteration as a band and continued to hate them long after they were dead and all
these good, good people I knew started extolling the virtues of Hell Songs (no one ever talks about the S/T endeavor which I actually think is kinda killer) because as idiosyncratically fascinating as the band could be, I just couldn’t fucking get with the amount of time Lexi or Alexis or I.M. Daughter (or I.M. Asshole as he once referred to himself in an ill-advised “interview” I did with him back before I knew I wasn’t the one to feed the animals) or fuckin’ whatever would spend playing with his spit on stage.
Which, of course, he did this evening and, of course, the crowd went wild and, of course, I bristled because there’s something about that particular shtick that just rubs me as arrogant and privileged and lazy and wholly deserving of a knuckle sandwich which, of course, means he’s chewing just the right nerves in me and his acolytes which then got me thinking (as the bodies surged and kicked and leapt in the hopes of getting a taste) that I shouldn’t be here.
This performance, this resurgence…it isn’t for me.
It’s for now.
And now is ugly and hateful and reckless and unfathomable which is Daughters in a nutshell and watching them writhe and rage makes me realize that I am still holding on to a different time when violence was earnest and immediate and hope still existed somewhere on the horizon.
But the cynic in me knows I’m wrong.
Hope has turned foul and we are all meaningless beings crawling through a wretched course of inconceivable actions. Sure, there are some who can fight and we know they are right and we’d pray if there was a God left between us that they win and turn the tide from spendthrift apocalypse to true grit and kindness and we lay claims to the cause but decades of jest have left us limp and apathetic.
So come on and spit. Lex. The rest of you Daughters come and stroke your greasy horn. Play death like it’ll liberate us from the wasteland. Play our madness, true to form.