Compare this effort, for example, to 1979s The Ethel Merman Disco Album, an astonishing work that changed my life from the moment my best friend, Debbie Urlik, revealed it in her familys record collection. (It features unforgettable dance versions of Merman classics such as Theres No Business Like Show Business and Everythings Coming Up Roses.) That album is something so grandiosely fucked up, it feels huge and impressive, and somehow inevitable. A world without The Ethel Merman Disco Album just wouldnt be any fun at all.
MARCH OF THE FALSETTOS: Speaking of gay bubblegum, lately Ive been tremendously enjoying Mika the colorful piano man from England/Beirut/France who sings in a falsetto to die for. But it occurs to me: Mika may be my favorite, but hes certainly not the only ambiguous young man dressing cool and writing pop hooks these days. In fact, theres a handful of em right now gender-flexible dudes wearing exceptionally awesome clothes and singing with all their hearts in gnarly-ass falsetto. And its not genre-specific: Besides Mika, theres Danish glam-disco heroes the Ark; Yankee psych-pop outfit Of Montreal; Toledo glam rockers We Are the Fury; and U.K. troubadour Patrick Wolf. (See our recent review of Mr. Wolfs new record at laweekly.com/music.)
Now, I certainly dont adore all these guys music, and I dont really care how they swing in their private lives. But I do find it interesting that there are more young men these days who are at least comfortable playing the stylish-androgyny card. And whats different about this new generations ambiguity is that it doesnt feel survival-based, or greed-based, or fashion-based (or maybe, in young Elton Johns case, confusion-based!). It feels like playing around with mystique and, most of all, demanding a kind of spiritual freedom for all.
Its weird. So much is so very, very wrong with our culture and yet so much is better than it was even 10 years ago. When I look at Mika, who is cagey about his love life (as is his right!), I also see that he probably owes Rufus Wainwright a thank-you card. I suspect Wainwrights courage the kind it took to be an openly gay cabaret singer in the indie-rock world 10 years ago has made Mikas road a bit more smooth. Elton Johns Donald Duck costume didnt hurt, either. Mika plays the Avalon June 8.We Are the Fury perform on the Warped Tour June 29 at Pomona Fairgrounds and June 30 at Seaside Park in Ventura.