|~~Many thanks to our own Justin Whyte for this rare gem!~~|
The true purpose of a rock 'n' roll band is not only to make great rock 'n' roll, but to make great pop art. Think of the early Rolling Stones, the Velvet Underground, T. Rex, Blondie, the Sex Pistols -- all bands whose most notable achievement was transforming marginal attitudes into models for mass sensibility, turning fringe experimentation into teenage rampage by combining sex, noise, pop hooks and avant-garde ideology. Now think of British group Transvision Vamp, another great rock 'n' roll group unafraid of being pop, that knows it's never a simple question of choosing art or commerce: what pop is really about is how to register a distinctive and subversive aesthetic statement in a cynical nature of commodities.
In love with materiality of pop and utilizing in hindsight sophistication of the present day, Transvision Vamp create a spectacular form of rock 'n' roll by distilling the essence of three decades of past rock scandals.
Wendy James' amoral fascination with the cruel but magical artifice of show business has led some critics to accuse the band of being opportunistic, calculated, disposable and in the words of the title of their song "Born To Be Sold." But when Wendy says things like "I have fallen for the Hollywood dream, let's make no mistake about it", she's merely being honest in recognizing that celebrity is the religion of the late capitalism. After all, what else is there to do in the late 20th century except be famous?
Playing pop at its own game and confronting the spectacle on its own terms, Wendy may well get her wish with the Transvision Vamp album, LITTLE MAGNETS VS THE BUBBLE OF BABBLE, an accomplished, dare one say, mature work that convincingly shows there's more to this band than their much commented-on flash-trash aesthetic. Guitarist Nick Christian Sayer -- who formed the band with Wendy nearly eight years ago -- demonstrates how far he has come as a musician and songwriter since the bands 1987 debut single "Revolution Baby" (which subsequently went to number one on the Czechoslovakian pop charts during the recent revolution). The rest of the band (Dave Parsons on bass and Tex Axile on drums and keyboards) provide sterling support, creating both moody and forceful settings for James' disturbingly carnal vocal manner.
James gives full rein to her genuinely outrageous personality. In reality, this personality is far removed from the sometime scantily clad persona she projects in the media. On "Don't Believe The Type" she tests the limits of the permissible representations of femininity that our culture allows and in the process settles a few scores with those macho monsters of the U.K tabloid press. On "Aint No Rules" she sings about female self empowerment without any of the piety often lent to such a topic when covered by less charismatic women singers. Indeed the album makes a good case for the glamorous life and the feminist life being mutually compatible.
Multi-media infiltrators kicking up a rumpus on pop's trash heap of efflorescences, Transvision Vamp utilize glamour as a revolt against the drabness of everyday life . Embracing the radical vulgarity and flashy vivacity of classic pop, they know, like the Sex Pistols before them, the impossiblity of being authentic in mass media culture. They also know that the only distinction that matters these days is between the authentcily unauthentic and the unauthentic pretending to be authentic. ( i.e between courageous art and deceitful art ). Needless to say, Transvision Vamp are a brave band.