[AKA Five Kick-Ass Things That Seth Putnam Would Hate the Shit Out Of]
This is a list I've been kicking around for a while because I'm a huge fan of issues of equality, especially in regards to gender and sexuality. I've been meaning to write it up for a while, and with April being National Sexual Assault Awareness month, and today (Friday) being my university's Take Back the Night event, I figured there wasn't a better time than now to put this list out. I've loved the idea for this list mainly because it goes to prove the diversity of a genre most outsiders often misinterpret as single-minded and unintelligent. Personally, I relish the fact that grind is a genre where bands like Regurgitate can release completely thematically abhorrent, gore-drenched slabs of noise (and I mean that in the best way possible, especially in regards to Deviant,) bands like Looking for an Answer and Disrupt can get all vegan and animal rights on us, and Discordance Axis and Pig Destroyer can prove that metal can be smart as hell and still rip you a new asshole. After that sorta lengthy, rambling intro, here you go: my top five favorite liberal and feminist things in grindcore.
Formed as an all-female grindcore quartet in Tokyo, Japan, there's a number of reasons F.I.D. are awesome, not the least of which is their music. Slightly more important to this list, however, is the fact that they're women willing to make uncompromisingly extreme music completely unrelated to image. Sure, there's been plenty of all-female bands in the past, but in a culture such as that of Japan, where visual presentation is paramount and oversexualization of the female form is encouraged and almost expected, it's not as simple a choice as all that. Adding to their lack of preoccupation with image, and smashing the misconception that F.I.D. is just some all-"GRRRL" novelty band, is the fact that when guitarist Kyoko, whom they recorded their self-titled LP with, quit the band, the girls were unafraid to bring in a male guitarist, an upstate-New Yorker by the name of Ben.
As vocalist Makiko blogged when they first announced their new member's identity: "Some people would think F.I.D. with a boy sucks and is not good anymore. If you think so, it means that you did not appreciate us as a band, that's about it."
Ben echoed this sentiment in a post introducing himself on the band's Myspace: "I had some reservations at first but, thinking about it and we all agree, if you just liked F.I.D. for being an all-female-Asian band, and don't like us now, then obviously the music comes second for you. So long, see ya, we'll keep on thrashing."
4. Warsore's "You Rape, You Die"
This one's pretty self-explanatory (as the Youtube video for the song also states.) For a number of very personal reasons I abhor rape, possibly more than any other crime on the planet. However, its sensitive and graphic nature makes it not a topic most people are comfortable discussing, both in their personal lives and, most of the time in their song lyrics. That's why I'm so refreshed to see one of my favorite genres of music tackle the subject.
3. Brutal Truth's "Anti-Homophobe"
This is the perfect centerpiece for the list, since it's the one item on the list that we know for certain that Anal Cunt vocalist/guitarist Seth Putnam does actually, as I so charmingly put in my subtitle, "hate the shit out of." In interviews he's been quoted bashing the song for its "political correctness," but I'm going to counter that and applaud the track for its honesty. In a genre that can sometimes get stereotyped as overmasculinized, and for a band with such a thick, rough sound, it takes a lot of cajones to say things as baldly as they do, with no regard for sounding cool or tough. Yeah, maybe it's not the "coolest" subject matter, but hell, give me something that really matters over the same old gore lyrics since Repulsion any day (not that I don't love Repulsion, mind you.)
2. Napalm Death's From Enslavement to Obliteration LP
Lee Dorrian is one of my favorite things to happen to Napalm Death, ever. Not only did he pretty much perfect the deathgrowl/grindshriek vocal trade-off, but he wrote some of the most progressive grindcore lyrics in the genre. Okay, so it's not all poetry, but From Enslavement to Obliteration, far and away my favorite thing Napalm Death has ever done (especially the cd release, which completes the record with the companion EP "The Curse") tackles political and social issues in a manner seen too scarcely in any genre. Lyrics all over the record discuss issues of race, class and gender; not surprisingly, however, the feminist lyrics strike the biggest chord with me. Classic "Cock Rock Alienation" addresses the sexism inherent in hair metal and arena rock, while "It's a M.A.N.'S. World" discusses modern culture's chauvinist gender biases. And, with possibly my favorite lyrical topic on the album, "Inconceivable?" takes a look inward at how easy it is to ignore one's own sexist tendencies in personal relationships. Add to that one of the most competent and original bands in grind, and you've got what I'd rank as probably the best grindcore record until Discordance Axis, Pig Destroyer, and others took the bar set by ND and Repulsion and raised it into the stratosphere.
1. Cretin Vocalist Dan Martinez Becomes Marissa Martinez
Transgender issues are incredibly difficult to discuss in any setting. So, when the vocalist/guitarist of a band who I've often described as the Last House on the Left of grindcore reveals that he's undergoing gender-reassignment surgery for his transition to a woman, one kind of takes notice. It's a colossal decision for anyone to make, and for someone whose fanbase thrives on gore classics such as Cannibal Holocaust and Herschell Gordon Lewis films (read: possibly not the most accepting people in the world) to discuss this decision in an open and frank manner is even more surprising. While it might have alienated some fans, Marissa's strength has only served to make me respect these Repulsion acolytes even more, and is only a grain of sand in my pile of evidence that grindcore is the greatest genre on the planet.