ARTIST: SURAN SONG IN STAG
TITLE / format : Pure Agitator - CD
As the performance poetry phenomenon matures, we are being rewarded with some intriguing poetry/music hybrids. Poets are honing their performance chops, and looking for the most appropriate format to present their words, often experimenting with musical backing. This CD is a welcome addition to the list.
Pure Agitator presents the words of poet Suran Song, augmented by (primarily) bass guitar from William Weis III. They manage to produce a lot of noise and power for such simple instrumentation, and they really push the limits of the format, coaxing all sort of expression and emotion out of the bass backing. Still, those limits are readily apparent by the end of the CD. There is still a certain sameness of sound to many of the pieces. Nonetheless, cut by cut the bass adds power and directness to the words.
I hate to use a hackneyed term like “empowerment” to describe such intelligent lyrics, but most of these songs concern finding new sources of strength for women. Songs such as “Female Rape Jury”, with its chorus of “For wearing skin/ Here’s your just dessert”, and “Ubergrrl”, dedicated to Naomi Wolf, and “Red Riding Hood’s Basket” all explore the continued victimization of women in these post-feminist times. Yet the overall feeling is not one of submission or defeat, but rather self-assertion. This is due as much to the confidence and aggression of the delivery as to the actual words. The words may say “This is the mess we are in” but the music says “I’m not going to take it.”
The disc is framed by two covers. It opens with Fugazi’s “Blue Print” (“Never mind what’s selling/ It’s what you’re buying”) and closes with a fun rewrite of Bowie’s “Star” (“Ani tried to change the nation/ Madonna wants to rule the world/ Well, she can tell you that she tried!”), both of which comment on the role of the performer in our society.
Overall, this CD takes limitations (musical, lyrical and societal) and makes stunning art out of them.