How in the name of all things Holy and Un do you prepare for Lydia Lunch? Pinning a genre on her is harder than getting a ferret in a tube sock. She is by definition the antithesis of all definition, spouting pop music, No Wave, spoken word, and just in general making a spectacle of herself.
And she's coming back to Houston, one of her favorite places.
"Set me loose among the cowboys," she says gleefully over the phone. "They just get me here."
Indeed, her upcoming performance for one night only in town is at one of her favorite venues in the world, the Catastrophic Theatre.
"There just aren't many places that are appropriate for what I do. Catastrophic is one of them. I love being here." She's a big Scarface fan, as well, just to cement her H-town credentials.
So what exactly is it that she does?
Well lately, Lunch has been working with a group called Big Sexy Noise. It's dark rock with a good blues bass, and for her it's almost mainstream. Such music enjoys greater exposure now thanks to the Southern gothic of True Blood, and you should definitely get yourself a copy of either of the two BSN albums. That's not what we're going to see in Houston, though.
Lunch is bringing something much darker, more sinister, and definitely more improvisational in nature. She's bringing drummer Weasel Walter with her, and a collection of ambient tracks that she's prepared in advance. "Psycho-ambient," she calls it. These will serve as the backdrop for a primarily spoken-word set, and Lunch's spoken word is justly famous for its razor-sharp edge.
In preparation for the night, I was sent a collection of tracks that were approximations of what Lunch will perform in Houston. They included the confessions of a psychic detective in a murder case, a sing-song poetical lament over not being sorry for setting a man's bed on fire, and a piece called "Ghost Town 1,2" that originally appeared in The Heroin Chronicles.
These amazing recordings paint an almost Lynchian picture of Lunch's work (we briefly gushed over the brilliance of Angelo Badalamenti). It's all about madness and seduction and smoldering rage, but delivered in a voice that oozes a seductive madness in every syllable.
But more than just Lunch's skill with words when it comes to accidentally snorting heroin or bloody murder scenes is her ability to weave a spell with her words through their rhythm and tones.
"Its weird," she says. "I think I get a better reaction in Europe, where people may only understand about a third of the words I actually say. I've tried using translators or back up singers on stage and they tell me 'No, we just want to hear you.'
"There's a rhythm and a poetry to the words, even if the meaning is sort of lost," continues Lunch. "I like to whisper in their ears as much as I like to scream in their faces. I'm the happy hater!"
Lunch remains an incredibly important artist, especially in the world of spoken word. By her own admission there isn't any more spoken word now than there was when she started doing it in the '80s. She brings a bleak, black, yet strangely maniacal glee to her craft. You'll live a lot longer and not see much better, or stranger. Catch it while you can.
Lydia Lunch performs twice on Sunday, June 2 at Catastrophic Theatre.
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