Tuesday, July 08, 2008

In Search of Fantasmic Coordinates

In a fit of nostalgia piqued by my Fourth of July mix, Th' Wife & I dusted off the Soundgarden catalogue and debated at length if the songs have been dated only by Chris Cornell's operatic caterwaul. I'd say so: the only things differentiating, say, "Limo Wreck" from the diamonds in the latter-day stoner-rock rough are (a) the teeth-grittingly crisp snare, and (b) that it's sung in neither a dozy one-octave moan, nor a Cookie Monster growl.

But the perennial relevance of sludge-blues post-Sabbath riffery isn't the point. While listening to the afore-mentioned song, my wife mentioned that it'd be perfect "stripper music." Huh? I thought miserablist hard rock was the soundtrack to garnment-relief only in certain niche clubs on the Reeperbahn or shameless subcultural caricatures like Doom Generation. But my wife insisted that hard rock is the pole-dancer's primary musical resource. (Not that she'd know firsthand, I'd should add.)

I conceded that the sledgehammer-subtle simian chest-thumping of Kid Rock, Nickelback, or Creed would make sense in stripclubs with stages wreathed in chickenwire, frequented by dudes who sport unironic moustaches and think Belgian beer makes you gay. By that standard, Motley Crue, Whitesnake, and Van Halen make stripperific music too.

So let's go one step beyond the machismo of Diamond Dave, via the fretboard fireworks of Eddie: skipping the Zeuhlish intro, could "YYZ" by Rush make a good stripper song? Hell no, said my wife.

Fair enough; perhaps that's a bit too distant from the id. Back to Soundgarden: evidently, not all their material makes a woman want to take her clothes off. "My Wave," for example, is too stiff-legged and asymmetrical to be sensual. It's the songs with more syrupy tempos and serpentine riffs that, e.g. "Mailman," that fit the bill.

Ah, I see the orthodoxy: stoner rock. But as I subjected my wife to a trawl through my music collection, the issue only became more clouded, and I couldn't quite find the thread that led to a surefire stripper hit.
~Kyuss - Yes, striptacular.
~Queens Of the Stone Age - Nope. Wait, what?! "Too dry, too much in the head and not the hips," apparently. I suppose I can see that: the woman is literally thrown away in the first verse, and Josh Homme is more concerned that he/we (?) "believe it in [his/our] head," but in neither the heart nor the loins.
~Rob Zombie - Yes. We're back on track. This makes sense, 'cuz it's basically a disco beat with monotonous metal guitars. By that standard, Rammstein would also work (which I find a little unsettling) yet, for reasons that escape me, Ministry would not.
~UFOMammut - "Oh, yeah, totally." Wow. This isn't just chewing on a freshly-harvested adrenaline gland, this is sexy? I'm either thrilled or terrified.
~Black Sabbath - No, and for the same reason that QOTSA didn't qualify: this is unfeeling, adolescent alienation, all male mushaburui isolated from a sensualizing female touch. It's there from the first line: "Finished with my woman 'cuz she couldn't help me with my mind." The song actually banishes the female to remain rooted in the unphysical male psyche.
~Sleep - Yes, but their appeal would be more "boutique."
~Om - Nope.
~Melvins - Maybe?
~Zoroaster - Meh.
~Boris - Uh-uh. Who could dance to this, other than spazzes or zombies?
My wife said, "It's not so much a matter of being sexy as being stripperful."* I smell a doctoral thesis somewhere in here. Of course, because of my familiarity with heavy guitar rock in general, I can start to sense the inarticulable subtleties that cleave strip-worthy stoner rock from not. But, taking a step back out of my element: beyond blaring Marshall stacks and a slamming rhythm section, what do Kid Rock and Whitesnake have in common with each other, let alone Soundgarden or Kyuss? And what makes them "good" stripper music?

A brief scan of various Yahoo! Answers surveys and a Maxim online list offered no new leads, only the usual suspects: Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Guns N Roses, "Closer," and yes, Motley Crue, Whitesnake, and Kid Rock. There's the occasional stripclub DJ frontiersman who'll be so bold as to spin Tricky, Lovage, or the Kills, but this appears to be far from the norm.

The crux of my conundrum is: in what way does glam-metal & arena-rock enable the fantasmic element essential to enjoying a stripclub? How does "Welcome To the Jungle" fit into the sexual psyche? Actually - does it? Could it be that so many people find stripclubs depressing and/or pathetic because it's been erroneously assumed that the absurd debauchery of, say, Tommy Lee's lovelife is what we want?

I should confess that I've never actually been to a stripclub, for two key reasons: (1) nowhere in my sexual psyche is there a place where I empty my wallet to watch young(ish) women desperately disrobe, and (2) I came of age in Baltimore. Have you ever been to The Block? Since I didn't wanna get shot for looking at the wrong guy, stabbed with a dirty hypodermic needle, or catch VD by simply breathing in the wrong direction, I stayed far, far away from such establishments.

Of course, it wouldn't do to ignore the other genre that looms large over stripclub playlists: r'n'b-inflected hip-hop (or is that hip-hop-inflected r'n'b?). It's immediately a more intuitive choice, given that it aims to induce hip-shaking and not head-banging. But as the "playa" has gradually supplanted the "gangsta" as hip-hop's dominant mythological figure, much hip-hop & r'n'b seems to be tailored specifically for stripclubs, as opposed to nightclubs in general.

This is much to the chagrin of, amongst others, a good friend of ours. "I am so sick of music telling me, as a woman, what to do," she's said on a few occasions. "I'm not getting low, shaking, dropping, or spreading a damn thing. Why don't you show me what you can do, punk?" She's taken a vow of dancefloor abstinence until a time when the YinYang Twins are plowed into the landflow of embarrassing pop-cultural mistakes. (I'm sure she'd be appalled at how frequently the YingYang Twins are cited as exemplary stripping music on this Yahoo! Answers thread.)

The manner in which contemporary hip-hop & r'n'b unfurl their cartoonishly lurid & utterly unironic sexual fantasia is remarkably similar to how glam-metal & arena-rock do it. I find such self-seriousness both comical and repugnant; there is nothing fantastic in it for me, only confusion. (But then, nothing gets me in the mood like the live Birthday Party LP, so there's no accounting for taste.) Consequently, I need some assistance in locating the fantasmic coordinates of this... "good" stripper music.

SO... what is good stripper music, and (if I may be so bold) why?

(*) As quickly as she can hit the nail on the head, my wife can also infinitely complicate the issue, as she did when noting the cultural bridges between stripper music and (1) "trucker music," and (2) redneck arena-rock anthems. As ugly as it is to contemplate, perhaps American sexual nirvana is some combination of a baseball cap with a Confederate flag, No-Doze, and some chick jumping out of her overalls.

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