By Lucretia Tye Jasmine
33 1/3 publishes books about specific albums, with each pocket-sized paperback about one album. Jenn Pelly discussed her book about The Raincoats at various venues last week in Los Angeles, including Stories in Echo Park on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, and at Soap Plant + Wacko in Hollywood, Sunday, Feb. 15, 2018. At Stories, Pelly was joined by the current drummer for The Raincoats, Vice Cooler, and at Soap Plant + Wacko, by drummer Patty Schemel (Hole, Upset). Punk rock veterans moderated: with Allison Wolfe (Bratmobile, Sex Stains), moderating both events, and Alice Bag (The Bags, Phag!) co-moderating at Soap Plant. Pelly also screened rare concert footage of The Raincoats (not available on YouTube!) At Stories, Pelly commented that when researching The Raincoats, the first punk band to identify as feminists, she realized that punk rock democracy is a process, and can take a long time. The band made decisions as a group. Pelly talked about how the band, from Spain, Portugal, and England, cherishes freedom of expression and equality. It reminded me of what my beloved professor said to me in 1988. Paul Arthur taught Cinema and Culture in the 1960s my last year at NYU. Each week I visited him during his office hours, and never have I ever found a professor so generous with his time and knowledge! One visit, he described all the meetings he attended in the heady days of the 1960s when it seemed possible that people could change the world for the better through diversity, peaceful protests, art/films/music, and participatory democracy. “How were the meetings?” I asked. “Long!” he replied, making me laugh, but he was serious. It takes a long time to create a true democracy. Punk rock is a process.
At Soap Plant/Wacko, Pelly said that the music was serious and comforting to her. Which is how I feel about the music of Hole, and about Schemel’s memoir, Hit So Hard (2017). Seriously comforting, the music and words of badass women who rock (and recover) give me strength. Hole’s candy pageantry lusciously evokes the longings of childhood, and pop culture’s cultivation of that longing. Rock ‘n’ roll fantasies seemed the province of men to me when I was a kid. Cinematic glamour tattered and torn in a punk rock romance and noise, listening to Schemel read from her book, and talk with experienced familiarity about writing songs, recording albums, and touring, becoming an addict and then becoming clean and sober, I realized Hole, led by singer-songwriter, Courtney Love, made their rock ‘n’ roll fantasy come true. Schemel and Pelly discussed the Raincoats’ cover of “Lola,” and how it felt like a revelation: cross-dressing, queer love, and play with pronouns signaled another punk rock tenet of liberation. Pelly’s shrewd observation that the Kinks may have made the song sound like a joke but the Raincoats translated that song for a whole new effect of possibilities resonated: serious comforts. An older man was seated beside me, alone and with his long legs stretched out. Was he a book browser who stumbled in for the show? Or one of those hidden radicals, undercover in running shoes and normal clothes? When I whispered (unintentionally loud) to LA Beat photographer, Judy Ornelas Sisneros, “I love her!” the man looked over at me and winked.