Culture for Pigeon

Tracy’s the one who sings; Nikki, who plays keyboards, has brown hair too, but her body language – she likes flashing peace signs a lot – is totally different; Cola, the blonde on the drum machine, has a lower voice than her two bandmates and all three are really punk video-artist and musician Wynne Greenwood.

There’s always been a two-way traffic between art, theory and music, but in recent years, and in the realm of electro-music especially, it’s really speeded up. Partly that’s because of the immediacy of the technology, partly because of new theoretical ideas around performance, spectatorship and – it feeds in naturally – sexuality and gender. When Greenwood speaks about being a lesbian feminist, it’s very much about addressing these issues. Culture for Pigeon, Greenwood’s gnomically titled second album, is about sound and vision: it comes with a two-track DVD on which we get a sense of what the band’s stage shows – a blend of live Tracy and video-represented cohorts – are like.

But the huge pleasure of Culture for Pigeon is that you can dance to it. There’s a touch of PJ Harvey in its cadences, the wit of Le Tigre or Chicks on Speed, and all the cleverness that Fischerspooner wanted. Its retro-sound also recalls the excitement of, say, early Human League, Soft Cell or Young Marble Giants. Greenwood’s instruments may be deliberately tatty (check out the drum sounds), but songs like the bouncy ‘Henrietta’ or ‘Knit A Claw’ are pure, stripped-down delight. Culture for Pigeon does have its quieter moments: the quality of ‘Happens’, a carefully observed song of loss, means that Greenwood stands out for all the right reasons.

Louise Gray

mag cover This article is from the October 2005 issue of New Internationalist.
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