by Kyle Norris
Queer to the core, bitch and animal’s eternally hard requires a certain amount of queerness for comprehension. That’s not to say straights won’t enjoy it. But of the three album reviews I’ve read in mainstream (i.e. straight) publications, I’d bet good money that all were written by folks who don’t sleep with their own sex. All three conclusions embraced an attitude of “Who the fuck are they and what the fuck are they talking about?!”
True enough, the bravado of opening track “best cock on the block” will baffle those unfamiliar with dildo culture. But in its over-the-top boastfulness (sustained like a sugar high by elementary bass and djembe groove; teased with layered vocal snippets and then blasted onward by baby techno beats), bitch and animal comes off as frolicsome, feisty and fun. The duo knows it’s funny; thus the goofiness is unleashed and that goofiness is what helps make this album kick.
Patchworked together with wet and drippy paste, the sound functions as an audible collage of salvaged, recycled and ancient materials. This thick incorporation of layers can taste like too many vegetables in the soup, but the heavy flow of linear editing also mirrors the sensibility of a group of friends messing around in a studio. Screams, laughter, errors and doses of self-mimicry all mesh with bitch and animal’s raw proficiency on a scattering of instruments.
Lyrics fiercely examine both themselves (with results both brilliant and maudlin) and their social contexts (exemplified in the cultural commentary “pissed,” which smokes with shame, fear and astonishment). At its best this introspection is witty, vulnerable and linguistically inventive. The painstaking ballad “traffic” proves the artistry (encapsulated with the epiphanic “just saying it does it/just smashing it crushes it/just loving it douses it”), as does the album’s strongest track “scrap metal,” which cleverly realizes the analogy of a relationship to a car crash.
Everything bitch and animal does is informed from a place of internal queerness — meaning a place of “in-between” sexuality that consequentially embraces the gray area between male and female; a place denied and denounced by mainstream culture. This is the pair’s identity and struggle: It takes a queer familiarity, or at least compassion toward it, in order to relate.
Radiating from this core of queerness might be misunderstood as a gesture of separatism — which it certainly is not. It’s a declaration intelligent, rebellious and humorous.
bitch and animal plays Royal Oak Theatre Feb. 14.
E-mail Kyle Norris at firstname.lastname@example.org.