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Sunday, November 26, 2006


ModMusic: Marc Almond

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a gay man in his early 20's about music, and I asked him what he listened to. The answer: mostly hip-hop, a smattering of teen rock. I asked what I thought was a simple question: "Do you listen to any gay artists?" This question elicited a sharp reply. "What, like Rufus Wainwright? Fuck that."

Dissing Rufus is fighting words to me, but I restrained myself. I said that gay musicians played a very important part of my development...but he barely waited for me to finish my sentence: "That's crap. Why should I listen to old pervs like Elton and George Michael, or they're playing fucking acoustic guitar like Beirut or Grizzly Bear."

Ouch. Now, I won't deny that music desperately needs a queer hip-hop superstar. But the problem is deeper. Gay music has had a dubious moral past (George Michael, Boy George, Pete Burns, I'm talking to you) and limited success in the mainstream (Stephan Merritt, Kitchens of Distinction and Bob Mould are great artists, but also niche artists). If you add in the troubling trend of the sexually ambigious (Morrissey and his descendents) or the "late to come out" crowd (Pet Shop Boys, Lance Bass, etc.), there's perhaps a pretty relevant void.

So ModMusic will be spending the end of this year highlighting queer music icons that SHOULD be remembered and recognized as our heroes...beginning with perhaps the most unabashedly queer artist of the bunch.

Marc Almond is best known as the voice of Soft Cell, whose version of "Tainted Love" still packs dance floors worldwide. But his savagely romantic music over the last thirty years -- his powerful "Tears Run Rings," or his duet with Jimmy Somerville on a cover of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love," to name only two -- has captured the struggles of iconoclasm and social alienation with surprising joy and sorrow. Equally adept at rock, electronica and theatrical music, Almond was critically injured in a motorcycle accident in 2004. His recovery is complete, and his new album of cover songs will be released in January.

For your pleasure, I give you Almond at his best: covering Jacques Brel's immortal "Jacky", and his exquisitely joyful ode to love, "My Hand Over My Heart", which is fast becoming a staple at gay weddings around the world.

Download: "Jacky", Marc Almond
Download: "My Hand Over My Heart", Marc Almond
Then Get: Tenement Symphony, Marc Almond
Then Get: Memorabilia: The Singles, Marc Almond
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