Saturday, 26 January 2013

Viva La Megababes

If, at the mention of "shampoo", your first thought is not of washing your hair but of these fabulous ladies, then congratulations - you have passed me "cool test" (I'm joking, washing your hair can be pretty fun too).
 I've loved Shampoo since my childhood self first saw their video for Trouble on The Chart Show. I saw two, older-than-me awesomely bratty girls who, if I'm completely honest, would have terrified me in real life (not so much now though, thankfully!).
I was about 7/8 at the time, too young to buy any music magazines or know how to check for TV appearances, so my Shampoo experiences were very few, and very far-between. Hearing them on the radio caused excitement that was only rivaled by a new episode of Animals of Farthing Wood and the release of The Lion King.

Thanks to the internet - especially this Tumblr - I've been able to catch up on a lot of that stuff.

Shampoo was made up of Jacqui Blake and Carrie Askew, two schoolgirls who were best friends and had their own Manic Street Preachers fanzine - they even appeared in MSP's video for Little Baby Nothing.
They decided to form a band, taking the name "Shampoo" from the playground nickname, "The Shampoo Girls", they'd been given after always turning down boys with the excuse of having to "wash their hair".

Their first single, Blisters and Bruises, was released on pink vinyl in 1993 and generally ignored by the (tasteless) public, despite receiving positive reviews from NME and Melody Maker
In 1994 though, they had huge success with their song Trouble, and album We Are Shampoo. They ticked the two boxes of 90's mainstream success in the UK - an appearance on Top of the Pops and a cover of Smash Hits magazine.
Trouble even went on to be featured on the soundtrack to the Power Rangers movie and, more excitingly, Foxfire.

The band seemed to have their biggest success in Japan, though they never really reached the levels of popularity they obviously deserved. Their follow-up albums Girl Power (1995) and Absolute Shampoo (2000) couldn't match the, albeit short-lived success of their debut release, and they eventually split-up in 2000.
I've read that a lot of teenage girls actually hated Jacqui and Carrie, which is a shame. I can't help but wonder if they'd have been more popular now or if they'd just come across as a weird attempt at selling 90's nostalgia through pop music.

Style-wise, the girls were a picture of pink, plastic kitsch (the artwork for We Are Shampoo also featured a collage of Barbie dolls and sweet wrappers). With their platinum blonde hair, cropped t-shirts and platform shoes, they were like what Baby Spice always wanted to be. But guess what, she wasn't (still my favourite Spice Girl though). An influence of mine? Of course!

I'll leave you with some of my favourite Jacqui and Carrie outfits...

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Beyoncé and, like, The Rules of Feminism

"You know, equality is a myth, and for some reason, everyone accepts the fact that women don't make as much money as men do. I don't understand that. Why do we have to take a backseat? I truly believe that women should be financially independent from their men. And let's face it, money gives men the power to run the show. It gives men the power to define value. They define what's sexy. And men define what's feminine. It's ridiculous."
Chances are you've already read it, but the above quote comes from Beyoncé in her recent interview with GQ magazine.
From the moment the magazine hit the stands, Beyoncé's credibility has been questioned and debated, largely because this interview was accompanied by a photoshoot of her posing in her knickers. Many articles, mainly from white middle-class women, telling us that this just isn't feminist enough for their liking.

Despite this, I'm sure I'm not alone in seeing the brilliance of Beyoncé using an interview with a, for lack of a better term, "lad's mag" as a platform to discuss sexism and the patriarchy. Will everyone who looks at her pictures read what she said? Probably not. But even if it's just a minority, surely it's still relevant? It's easy to preach to the converted, to express those views to an audience that is, stereotypically speaking, more hostile toward them as a brave move.

Maybe some readers will read her feminist views and mock them. Maybe only one reader will even bother to look at the words. That's still one more person than if she hadn't done the interview. Everything has to start somewhere, and most beginnings are small. Maybe if these opinions are expressed more often in this way, they will become less laughable and more "normal".

What gives any of us the right to decide that Beyoncé isn't enough of a feminist to discuss the gender pay gap?  It's these very restrictions, these rules of what you can and can't do as a feminist, that scare people away from the movement.

The issue of intersectionality has been discussed a lot recently, yet some of us still insist of excluding some women from the conversation. There's no such thing as a perfectly molded feminist, so stop looking for one. 

Beyoncé has inspired many women, if I was a Mother, I would be more than happy for my child to see her as a role model.
A lot of the criticisms I've read about this feature seem all too similar to slut-shaming. Beyoncé's a successful woman, her career would hardly have struggled if she'd opted not to appear in GQ. When I saw the cover of that magazine, I didn't see someone who was being exploited, who'd been "reduced" to doing this sort of photoshoot. I saw someone who is very much in control of her image, of her career, embracing their sexuality. Society may be guilty over-sexualising women, in the spotlight or not, but that doesn't mean we, as women, have to respond by rejecting our sexuality. It's all about choice; if you're not comfortable with that kind of publicity, then you should absolutely have the choice of not taking part in it, without being judged. Similarly, if you're in a position where you're happy to do that and no one's forcing you into it, then you should be able to go for it, without having everything else about you invalidated.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Important Life Band: Jack Off Jill

My last Important Life Band post was back in September, when I wrote about my love of Hole, so I think I'm due to make another one. Who am I fangirling over this time? Why, Jack Off Jill!
Jack Off Jill had already broke up by the time I discovered them, when I was 15. I actually first heard of them through my love of another band, My Ruin - yes, I think we can assume I'll be talking about them on this blog at some point. At the time, My Ruin's vocalist Tairrie B was good friends with JOJ's vocalist Jessicka (I don't know what happened between them, I still love them both so *shrug*) and Tairrie had posted an interview she did with Jessicka on the My Ruin website. I can only imagine how many times I read it while it was still online, but I loved reading what they had to say.

I'd just started reading this interview for the first time when I realised, hey, this is the Jessicka who sings on the My Ruin song "Miss Anne Thrope"!. Quite proud of myself for connecting those dots, I read on.
That weekend, I was idly flicking through the unimpressive CD section in my local HMV when I saw the Sexless Demons and Scars album. It was the most excited I'd felt all day and, despite not having actually heard any JOJ songs, I bought it.
As soon as I got home, I put the album on while simultaneously falling in love with it and joining JOJ fan communities on LiveJournal (ah, the good old days!). It might sound a bit strange, but I quite liked the fact that Jessicka's voice is high-pitched. A lot of female-fronted bands I was listening to had more husky or aggressive vocals, which I loved singing (or shouting) along to, but also felt a bit silly while I did, because my voice is very much on the softer end of the spectrum. I guess it helped me to feel a bit more comfortable with my own singing voice.
Naturally, this album was on regular rotation for me... I'd often listen to it through my headphones at school while glaring at people :)

One of my friends got me the Clear Hearts, Grey Flowers album for my 16th birthday and, while it could be seen as a bit of a jump, sound-wise, from SSDAS, I loved it just as much. I actually quite like that these two albums have such different moods, I still go through phases of which one I play the most. On a side note, this also led to my liking of Mark Ryden's artwork!
I also started to play bass when I was 16, starting by learning mostly Hole and JOJ songs. It was quite a proud moment when I could say I'd learned to play every song on SSDAS.

I feel like JOJ were the exact sound that I wanted to hear in my angsty kinda-goth-mid-teens. "Angsty" usually has quite negative connotations, but I don't mean in that way at all. It gave me something to relate to and Jessicka's screams playing loudly was a nice way or purging some of my negative feelings - Angel's Fuck was particularly good for this.

These days, while I guess some might still call me "angsty" (though I'd hope they'd be more respectful with regards to my mental health problems), listening to JOJ tends to make me feel happy. Even though I listened to them a lot when I was feeling terrible, they also remind me of happier memories from that period.