No Bra, Candy, Address
No Bra – the brainchild of Susanne Oberbeck and Fanny Paul Clinton – got its start in 2003. Known for her signature long straight hair and steely vocal delivery, German native Oberbeck became something of a cult icon amongst London’s alterna-queer set. Currently based in New York, No Bra have released the follow-up to 2006’s Dance and Walk with Candy.
‘Minger’ kicks off with a down-tempo bass line soon followed by Oberbeck detachedly asking: “How would you feel if I took your ming away from you/It would be so easy/I could kill her in a frenzy and no one would ever remember her/How would you feel if I took your life away from you/It would be so easy.” Oberbeck deconstructs power privilege – whether it be found in illusions of misogynist aggression or through class.
Featuring jumpy electro keys, Candy is an exploration of the pervasiveness of casual harassment. Repeating ‘cross the line/don’t cross the line/cross the line/don’t cross the line,’ Oberbeck puts the listener in juxtaposed positions, trading off between being the victim or the victimizer, whilst building up a feeling of uncomfortable tension, asking: “What is your candy store?”
No Bra examines the rubbish built up in the filthiest nooks and crannies of day-to-day life. Combining jangly post-punk backlit by a an electro fun house beat, No Bra is an act that challenges and is not easily digestible. Dark subject matter is delivered with macabre tongue-in-cheek irony combined with a self-deprecating humour that balances out the deathly serious societal concerns being raised. This is arguably most perfectly achieved in the brilliantly droll ‘Date With The Devil’, in which the narrator describes her songs as “not really songs, more like show-tunes,” and they commiserate over horrible times in drama school struggling to be able to play female roles.
The writing and musical elements straddle the line between electro and spoken word/performance. At times shades of the pop-deconstructionism of The Raincoats and the spoken-word moments of Patti Smith can be noticed. The cover of Suicide‘s ‘Super Subway Comedian’ is a perfect choice for Oberbeck to reconstruct – taking from the original source material and making it her own, allowing it to speak and resonate, giving it a new life in an updated context that holds true to the original while commenting upon contemporary urban gentrification.
It would be impossible to approach No Bra without first giving credence to the fact that this is first and foremost spoken-word performance art with a musical bent. Or bent musical performance art. However way you word it, it is impossible to have a listen to No Bra and come away feeling ambivalent.