The performance art collective celebrates sexuality and the legendary adult movie icon while stoking outrage from chin-stroking music traditionalists. What’s not to like?
If ever there was a record label with a signature ‘sound’, then it might be 4AD, home of The Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil, Lush and all manner of ethereal, shoegazing, pearly dewdrop-dropping music that never quite belonged to any time or place. Those bands might be a thing of 30+ years ago, but the problem with having such a clear – if oddly undefined – identity is that moving away from it in any way, shape or form will cause much sputtering indignation from the sort of people who want you to remain within very narrow parameters of what they have decided you should represent – musically, socially, culturally and politically. 4AD signing Cumgirl8 was always going to raise eyebrows and ire.
Cumgirl8 describe themselves as a “sex-positive alien amoeba entity” working in music, film, art and fashion. They are pro-porn, post-punk (though you’d hope so after all this time), political and provocative, and the only reason that they are likely to gaze at their shows would be in wonderment of the visual aesthetics of said footwear. Their new single is entitled Cicciolina – and no, it’s not a cover of the Pop Will Eat Itself track before you ask. It does have the same subject matter though, the Italian porn star, politician, one-time muse to Jeff Koons and all-around cultural icon. As the band explain, “Cicciolina is an Italian icon, porn star and former politician that was elected to parliament in the 90s. She advocated for human rights and the eradication of nuclear weapons. Cicciolina said “make sex not war” and used her divine power of femininity to troll the status quo while disrupting it from the inside. We feel her ideals are foundational to the cumgirl8 philosophy of subversive change, peace, and strength in vulnerability. We hope she loves our song, we love her very much. Cicciolina is cumgirl1.”
Here’s the video. We quite like it.
It has, of course, led to some tutting on Twitter about how the label of “Wolfgang Press, Clan Of Xymox, Cocteau Twins, Lush, Dif Juz, Pale Saints“ has changed, as if 4AD should instead stick with half a dozen bands, most of whom are long since defunct. It’s hardly as though the label has sold out – Cumgirl8 are not exactly Ed Sheeran, are they? But the nature of the outrage was clearer in the comment from one twit who moaned that it used to be the label of “women like Elizabeth Fraser, Kristin Hersh, Kim Deal, Tanya Donnelly, Miki Berenyi, Emma Anderson, Lisa Gerrard, Lisa Germano, Heidi Berry, Meriel Barham… who didn’t decide ‘sexual image before music’, pretending to themselves that it was eMpOwErInG. But that’s what’s ‘in’ now.”
I’m not sure that Cumgirl8 actually are putting sexual image before music, but even if they are, that’s because they are an art collective more than simply a band, one that pushes a sex-positive message that might well clash with the ideas of people who think that women are nothing more than victims who have no sexual agency of their own. If that upsets the uptight moralisers of the right and left – who, these days, seem to be more hand-in-hand than ever with their desire to crush any aspect of sexual expression or pleasure – then so be it.
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