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I

f

TV's

Mary

Richards

once

'turned the world on with her

band's inception, all had dark hair),

conimed by any boundaries.

the material on both the EP and LP,

smile,' and Prince's popularity is

One highly amusing evening spent

and what lies ahead... on future

due to his overt-sexuality, Min-

with these six partners-in-crime (the

tours, roadies may discover a Van

neapolis' newest offering may just

Batman theme is sacred here) and

Halen-like quirk - the Tetes can't

charm us all with their stylish sense

their 'seventh member' sound engi-

stand the occasional M&M that tastes

of humor. Renee

Kayan,

Polly

Alexander,

neer Kim Bromme, confirmed my

like

initial impressions of the Tetes - in-

fun?!?!?, on to the music ....

disinfectant.

But ,

enough

Camille Kayan-Gage, Cynthia Bartell,

telligence in a candy-coated wrap-

Slap-happy choruses of schoolyard

Angela Frucci and Jennifer Holt com-

ping . In a conversation spliced with

prise "Tetes Noires." Forget your pre-

chants, entitled "Playground Ditties,"

wild stories about their performance

open and dose the EP. Combined

conceived notions pertaining to an

antics (an acappella version of Billy

with the cover photo of all the Tetes

all-girl

Idol's "White Wedding" complete

dressed in doll playdothes, complete

band,

or

any

particular

musical style generating from the

with - what else - second-hand

with stick-on tabs, these paeans of

Twin Cities these days. With lyrics

wedding

of

praise to childhood could mistakenly lead you to think someone let a

dresses),

and

tales

tackling subjects as diverse as religion

teenage years spent 'cow-tipping'

to prostitution to bingo (yes, bingo!)

(boredom in the midwest can cause

bunch of silly girls run amuck in a

and instruments that run the gamut

strange behavior), we talked about

recording studio. And while this

from Hammond organs to garbage

S

drums), Tetes Noires music is not

R

the origins of the group (fetes Noires childlike simplidty continues with ' 路 at the translates to ' black heads can l ids (c ons pi cu ou sly lackin g the circus-u me at m osphere of ' ' Wiay y ___ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ ___ _ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ _ __ _ ___ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ___


o

o Of The World," there lies a counter­ balance in the cynical lyrics con­ cerned with life's everyday ups and downs: 'Earn a nickel, spend a dime fortune ain't no friend of mine.' "You can almost picture yourself walking down the street with your hands in your empty pockets think­ ing, 'Well, I'm broke, but what the hell, I'm happy.' " An assault of the general public's obsession with false monetary stand­ ards follows: "So members of the middle class, go right ahead and kiss the ass, of packaged mediocrity expense ac­ count SOciety." "It's about trying to keep your atti­ tude up, even though a lot of people think that no money equals unhappi­ ness." Another song on the E P, 'Geisha," ponders the differences of two cu 1tures. While female prostitution in Japan in considered an art, clean and honorable, here in the Western world it is relegated to the dirty streets. And either way, it's a man's world. All the while, these sentiments are set against the tones of a child's xylophone, belying at first the seriousness of lyrical content. Possibly the entry most represen­ tative of happy-go-lucky music off­ setting thoughtful earnest lyrics is "Lucky Girl ." The girl in question lists the fun accessories of being female - "hair spray, rollers, finger­ nail polish, earrings, lipstick and black mascara" and counts her bless­ ings for not being a boy "trucks and guns are stupid toys," then goes on to show that little girls are not quite what they seem: Barbie dolls were my best friends Adultery was tbeir favorite sin Skipper thinks she's lucky Scooter thin.ks she's lucky No telling wbere my Barbie's been. Awash in irony and sarcasm, this lucky girl pokes fun at our 'enlight­ ened world.' A nd again, the musical

20

>

en

I-

w

setting for this reproachful look at American culture has a playful inno­ cence fit for a cornflakes ad. "Something important in our music is that we try really hard to get the message across, but in a way that if people don't want to hear the message, or catch the irony, they don't have to. They can just enjoy the music." But there's no missing the message in "Plato's" - a crack at ew York's hedonistic orgy palace. No one but the 'retreatees' themselves could taU to appreciate the coupling of a mono­ tone impersonalized chorus of "You Sex, Me Sex, A Sex, B Sex, Two Sex, Three Sex-Have you heard about Plato's?" with an instrumental back­ ground sounding like a video ping­ pong game. Inspired by an ad in the ew York Village Voice for this 'come one, come all' sex club, '''Plato's' shows the disgust of reducing sex to numbers, making it a most banal, animalistic function." Devoid of merriment, "The Hawk is an all-out attack of Reagan himself, equating "our old man'in the White House" with this winged, menacing creature - "preditary and restless, dissipated and useless." So strong a sign is this of the Tetes' abandonment of frolic that any lingering idea of 'sil­ ly little girls' is forever dispelled. American Dream is the title of the Tetes I oires' LP, and rightly so, for it is a musical conglomeration of the good and evil one encounters grow­ ing up in this country in these times. "We are very much a message­ oriented band. We have definite opi­ nions on things that we want to get across in our music." The title track itself is a literary medley dealing with the evil- "The American dream is so full of fucking holes, all it has to do with is making money." W ith an infectious Middle Eastern feel recalling "If I Were A Rich Man" in both rhythm and thought, here is nothing less than a condemn-

ation of our societ y 's unsatiable greed: To have a life of many pleasares W ith riches knocking at your door And having found the buried treasure To find the urge to dig up more. To reach for more than small rewards Ten bank accounts all big and fat And tbough you find you're often bored Being rich is where it's at - hey!" "Fatnily Ties" fwd the Tetes exam­ ining another of America's darker problems - the strange acceptance of chemical and alcohol dependence that runs rampant on these shores. This hauntingly beautiful ballad criticizes our ethics and mourns the damage done to our families and ourselves through self-destruc­ tiveness. While occasionally occupied with soLemn thoughts, the Teres' trade­ mark of enveloping it all in pleasur­ able music is ever-present. It is impor­ tant to note this: Tetes Noires' great­ est resource may not lie in their topics for musical discussion, but instead in their ability to handle any topic with melodic wit and aplomb. Their often unorthodox instrumental backings accompany dynamic vocal solos or unisons so harmonious as to recall the early hey-day of girl-groups. Perfect examples: "Recipe For Love" (which bounces around the kit­ chen so cheerfully that 'The Joy Of Cooking' should snatch up the com­ mercial rights) couldn't be topped by the Andrew Sisters. And the acappella remake of the Cookies' classic "Chains" recorded in the same fashion as the original with all singers gathered around two multi-direction­ al microphones, is a glowing testa­ ment to this band's talent. In further search of the A merican dream, the Tetes nod t wice toward politics. In a folk-ish anthem hoping tbat "we'll unite for peace and free-

o

>dom" one by one, we're told we've got "Peace, Piece By Piece." But later, in a funk-inspired "Rollover," the singer fears: This culture is a coal mine Getting darker all the time We've lost romantic vision Inside nuclear fission. Initially grumbling about a lover invading ber personal rights and space - "move over, it's my bed," our American girl in the '80s turns her thoughts toward worldwide de­ struction - "Roll over, play dead." "Getting nuked seems to be a pri­ mary concern of this band" laughed one of the Tetes, adding a truthful "It's always in your subconscious whether you like it or not." Could the American dream be turning into a nightmare?!? Well, maybe, but not on this LP... for with the exception of an ominous look at a rarely spoken­ about (much less sung about) crime - male prostitution - in "Pretty Boy," the bulk of the album exclaims the joys and goodness of the American dream. Even in their rebuke of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his pathetic followers, the Tetes punctuate th.eir cries of "I wonder what it's like to be a m ooni e .. . be­ l ievi ng tha t brainw ash ing isn't a danger. . . selling their souls on the streets like wh ores ... " with hilari o us y o d els lightening the mood . Bi n g o with its Dixieland swing, r ejoices in the s im ple pleasures of one of our bigges t pas time s (with an actual bingo caller urging the s inge r to victory), while 'Road Hog appr o aches our favorite sport aggressive driving - with a twist, this driver who pi cks pe d e strians off the street, and yells a curse at lagging feet'· is no hot-rod guy but o f course, a girl. This 'dominating female' theme continues in Can t Even Dance." ,

"

,"

'

"

-

"

'

'

21


T verbal nonsense, finishes the LP. En­

H BY

couraging their engineer to join them

really say Paul is dead. Minneapolis has obviously

With a pumpe d up guitar behind her that Joey RaInone would ap­ preciate this sneering girl notes her new fellow's shortcomings, the worst being - you guessed it - he can't even dance. The most prolific usage of the female point of view is "True Love." A veritable countdown of

all the' true loves" throughout her life, from grade school to the pre­ sent, and all the problems they've caused, leads this girl to determine "I guess I never had a love 1 could call true 1 think the lot of them were dorks 'tween just me and you." Don't think the Tetes are ready to join the ranks of men-haters, tho ugh.

dare.

re­

"We're

playing in bars that are used to hav­ ing ty pical guitar bands with a heavy

drum

beat

and here we are doing

things like acappella on stage.We've

proven that you can do something that's different and people will still

BAUSER

T

c

E

L

L

o

withstand questions like: "How do think fashion can prevent nu­

clear war?" But the Raincoats are

commercially handicapped from the stan. They are women and t h ey are

ing to spiral round and round while et down the rhythm.

just that the Raincoats aren't going to wear black leather and invite you

the

backstage for a seamy liaison, rework

guitar only north and south, east and west. FinaUy, out of the swirl

old pop standards under the legend,

male voices shrill 'hee-hee-hee'. Enter those glorious violin chords, starting slow at the bottom, then ris­ guitar strings

The violin turns heavenward

serious about their work. This is not to mitigate the work of some other popular, all-female bands of late, it's

emerges one lone voice �'no one's

"New Music," nor will they evoke a 1960s party-dress it 's-my-party-and­

little girl ...

I'n-cry-if-I-want-to aura.

"

The K itchen Tapes begin with "No One's Little Girl." With some help fr om Richard Dudanski, Derek

like it. You don't have to be a formula band for people to like you." Well a formula band, they're not.

are equally involved

Godard, and Paddy O'Connell, the . 'urban caravan" as urnes the dimen­

the varied influences each claims

sions of a party a well. We're invited

All six members

in the making of the music and with

by one of the men to

(from Yoko Ono to Kool and the

"Dance to the heat of the kitchen

Gang) noticeable throughout both the EP and

LP,

You bener get off your feel and

it s not exactly easy to pin '

down just what kind of band this is. "People seem to want labels.They

A reliable source once revealed that

when

Vicky

Aspinall,

Gina

Stop all this bitchin�'

All of which is followed by the

want to put a handle on our music."

Birch and Ana DaSilva-known coL­

wail of a banshee-=hee-bee-hee�

In fact, when asked by a distribu­

lectively as the Raincoats-arrived

the

Simply a tale of woes from the side not often heard from. Refreshing.

tion company to describe themselves

from London for a gig at

earnest

And we're definitely not a feminist

sexy come on songs coming out of a So Tetes Noires don't appreciate the "sex-shooter" image? "We

are

definitely anti-THAT. It's

really disgusting. It's doing nothing for women being taken seriously as

guitars,

and then the

''I'm never gonna belin

your family tree ... I never shall bel

Kitchen for the Performance Arts late

tied down-n-n-n ..." And the tage

.. .to ...know!" was a comeback

air fare back home. Such is the Rain­

goes on like this!

thought of later

lot of female writers."

vow:

in 1982, they were caught short for

futile request.)

these sad, love-lament kind of songs

violin,

in 5 words or less, the Tetes were

ourselves as victims. Either you get or you have these Madonna kind of

ew York's

speechless ("You ... don't ... want

band. It's just that none of us sees

as

they recalled this

coats legacy. Though critically ac­

Love

songs,

hate

scraping guitars,

with our music,

New Musical Express to the AyatOllah

violins meant for cattle

because it's so eclectic. All the songs

Khomeini you won't hear the Rain­

street bazaars, Gaelic voices on key

cars

are from such different genres. We go

COats' songs in any disco nightclub,

and off, thunderstorm piano solos,

or after-hour bar.You just won't. The

and late night Laments. Their title

to folk to acappella to girl-group.We

plain fact is that you have to be hip

have all these different influences.

to know about the Raincoats. Lucky

Hopping Mad," 'i\.nimal Rhapsody,"

for us that Neil

and then there's the weirdest one of

There's reall y no

way

to label our

music except 'new music.' "

Because the band has no ma jor dis­

Reach-Our

Cooper founded

International

Records

(ROIR) and is j ust so hip, else The

are

Witty. ·'Balloonacy," "Dance of

all, "Mouth of a Story," that wonder­

ful, bootheel, stunn and drang march

musicians. They're making them­

t r ibution as of yet (their label,

Kitchen Tapes would not have fallen

was humorously dis­

Rapunzel Records, is self made),

into RockBill's hip little hands and

"It's toO Ia-ay-ay -ay-ate

copies of the EP and LP can only be

you wouldn't be reading this article

I can't (?) wa-ay-ay-ay-ait�'

dressed in raggy

obtained by writing to Tetes Noires,

today.

lingerie, the Tetes once billed them­

P.O. Box 8332, Minneapolis, Min­

played when, selves

as

Insanity

6

- an obvious

knock at a musical combo they hard­ ly admire. "Selcric" a montage of seemingly PHaro: CATHERINE SETIANNI

and

from be.ing punk to country-western

selves even more into sexual objects." This disdain

disso­

nance,

hard

harmony,

songs.

claimed by nearly everyone from the

That's really

nesota 55408. And why should you do this? Easy - in 5 words or less - you DO want to know.0

R

you

It's all played out in a joking manner.

"We don't mean to put men down.

22

sponded to the Tetes'

KASPAR

o

chamois heralds the approach of an urban caravan as three fe­

to be different," the entire song was pressed in a backwards version of the

c

he hollow sound of skin hitting

in their self-proclaimed motto "dare

original recording. And no, it doesn't

E

The Kitchen Tapes is simply one of

of a song.

This i n't Greil Marcu define the Raincoat

'

mu

trying

to

ic within

the best things I' ve heard in years and

the COntext of the "punk process"

I think the Raincoats should be on

(whatever that is), this is ju l the

magazine covers and talk shows pro­

vided they have the fortitude to

te timony of someone who's heard

Tile Kitcben Tapes and likes it.A lot.

23


RockBill February 1985 Têtes Noires Cover Article