QUEERCORE: LOUD, BRATTY PUNK MUSIC FOR US
By Brad Martin
When I was 13 I bought my first album with my own money. It was Blink-182’s Enema of the State.
This purchase kicked off a lifelong love affair with that bratty, crass, fat-wreck style of punk. As I grew older and explored a whole heap of different genres, my love for the short, fast and loud never dwindled. After I’d come out, and lived my life within the queerosphere for a while, this love of loud music led me to uncover the whole wide world of “Queercore”, or “Homocore” – that same style of loud, bratty, confrontational music, made for and by people like me.
From Limp Wrist’s minute-and-and-half-long ode to hot punk boys “I love hardcore boys, I love boys hardcore” and Pansy Divisions sex positive and unashamedly gay “I’m gunna be a Slut” (a personal anthem of mine) these bands were a revelation for me, wearing their sexuality as a badge of honour, merging the atheistic of my early teenage angst, with lyrics and themes that I related to more personally.
Queercore is the name used for a large range of bands, covering a large style of music, from ska, to hardcore, to pop-punk and beyond, united by a common them: a raw, honest, and sometimes confronting lyrical content. These bands are unashamedly out and proud, sexual, and, more often than not, palpably angry.
The scene was originally dubbed “Homocore” however as bands with members running the whole spectrum of gender and sexuality emerged, the more inclusive “queercore” came into wider use. Alongside this scene emerged Riot Grrl, the feminist equivalent who similarly explore the themes of being an outsider, even within a whole group of outsiders. Women like Kathleen Hanna, were a part of both scenes, often the bands from either scene would share the same bill, or even the same record label.
The DIY punk culture of the late 80’s gave rise to a whole movement of self published zines, one of which titled “J.D’s” from Bruce LaBruce and GB Jones is credited as the catalyst which pushed the queercore scene into existence. Publishing 8 issues from 1985-1991 the authors also wrote a manifesto called “Don’t be Gay” which appeared in a 1989 issue of Maximum Rock&Roll. LaBruce and Jones set out to provoke not just the punks, but also the more mainstream gay community. In 1990, the J.D.s editors released the first queercore compilation, J.D.s Top Ten Homocore Hit Parade Tape, which included bands from Canada, such Fifth Column, Nikki Parasite, Big Man and Bomb from the U.S, The Apostles, Academy 23 and No Brain Cell from the UK, and, Gorse, from NZ.
Inspired by JD’s many other queercore zines sprung into existence names such as “Holy Titclamps” “Homocore” “Chainsaw” and “Outpunk” were being published, with the latter two also functioning as record labels, releasing the music from the bands they supported, the scene spread around the world, “The Burning Times” was a queercore zine published out of Melbourne during the early 90’s.
The first wave of queercore bands, many of which were already in existence prior to these zines, now found that there were other bands out there with a similar ethos, and started to find a larger audience. Fifth Column, God is my Co-pilot, Pansy Division, Sister George and Tribe 8 are some of the early names that gained popularity, and a worldwide awareness. During this period of queercore in the late 1980s to the early 1990s, many of the punk bands involved were not necessarily all queer but their ethics were motivation for supporting this movement, and many contained at least one queer member.
Throughout the 90’s and 2000’s bands such as the straight edged Limp Wrist, Gravy Train, Gay for Jonny Depp, and Hunx and his Punx, ASSACRE all formed and continued creating music that aligned with the style of Queercore. Although each of these bands vary wildly in style, from hardcore, Electro, indie, no wave, industrial, each of them share the similar thematic threads that define queercore music. A slew of queer centred music festivals such as homo-a-go-go, Bent Festival, and queer panic were held in America.
There are many Australia bands that you can label queercore, from the 90’s pop of the Mavises, the Blow waves (Fronted by Matt Doll of the mavises), the hardcore Glory Hole, and Camp David, or the more minimal Der Kreis. Most of these Australian bands come out of the Melbourne punk scene and some sharing the same members. In my personal and unbiased opinion these Australian bands create some of the best queer punk music coming out at the moment.
At the core of queercore, the music speaks to that anrgy, disillusioned, angsty teenager that many of us as queer people still have trapped inside.
For me it is a cathartic release, a recognition of our shared history and struggles, and an unapologetic celebration of all the wonderful, and weird things which make us unique, as individuals and as a community.