The Filth and the Fury: An Essay on Punk Rock Heavy Metal Karaoke

By Oakes, Jason Lee | Current Musicology, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

The Filth and the Fury: An Essay on Punk Rock Heavy Metal Karaoke


Oakes, Jason Lee, Current Musicology


Lauren is a photographer who lives in New York City. The daughter of a urologist, she grew up in Westchester County and graduated cum laude from NYU. Lauren's master's degree in photography has served her well at Punk Rock Heavy Metal Karaoke (PMK), a live band karaoke night in New York City she attends almost every week. (1) The gaze of her camera is frequently trained on friends and strangers as they sing, scream, and pose onstage. With over one hundred of her photos posted online, this is still only a small portion of the thousand-plus PMK photos on the photo-sharing website flickr.com. In documenting this amateur event, Lauren is also joined by a host of videographers, including a number of professionals. PMK has inspired a documentary film that played the independent festival circuit, Punk Rock Heavy Metal Karaoke: The Movie (2001), and videos of individual singers have been uploaded on YouTube. (2) The joy found in looking and being looked at is a big part of PMK's appeal, and, as one might expect, hearing and being heard is also central to the event. Every week the voice is "gazed" upon by listeners much as the body is gazed upon by spectators. A great deal of attention focuses on how individual singers emulate the original vocalist of a song and the degree to which they stake out a vocal identity of their own, as well as how they present themselves in relation (or contrast) to familiar rock star visual codes.

The power of this bodily and vocal display is illustrated one Monday night as Lauren prepares to venture into the more aggressive reaches of the punk songlist. Having previously limited herself to a handful of pop-tinged songs--songs that are in keeping with her friendly offstage demeanor--Lauren has taken a bit of ribbing for her ever-present smile and what one PMK regular, Rico, calls her "aura of niceness." So when Rico dares her to sing "something with the words 'fuck,' 'cunt,' or 'abortion,'" whether intended as a joke or not, she decides to accept the challenge.

After the emcee calls Lauren's name, she nervously accepts the microphone and the beer-stained plastic-sheathed lyric sheet. As the band launches into a stampeding, overdriven two-note riff Lauren's eyes intensify and she spits out the words:

   I'VE FUCKED A SHEEP AND I'VE FUCKED A GOAT! I RAMMED MY
   COCK RIGHT DOWN ITS THROAT! SO WOT?! SO WOT?! SO WOT
   SO WOT YEW BORING LITTLE CUNT!

In the act of singing "So What" by Anti-Nowhere League ([1981] 1996), (3) Lauren's entire demeanor changes. The smile remains but there is a visible gleam of malice in her eye. On the small stage her body is propelled forward as she moves aggressively toward the audience. Likewise her voice is cast out of her body with a shrieking force that twists the simple melody of the song into new shapes. The reaction of the audience to Lauren's new persona is overwhelming positive. Those nearest the stage gaze up and scream the next lines together, ending with an accusatory "WHO CARES ABOUT YOU! YOU! YOU! YOU!" as they point alternately toward the stage and each other. At the song's end, after Lauren has sung about her further adventures "spewing up on a pint of piss," "jacking up until [she] bleed[s]," "suck[ing] an old man's cock," and "fuck[ing] a schoolgirl's crack," the audience breaks out into rapturous applause and approving catcalls.

By her own admission, singing "So What" for the first time destabilizes Lauren's sense of discrete selfhood. Afterwards, she describes feeling "momentarily possessed" by her newly discovered "dark side," letting out "a devilish fit of laughter" when she left the stage. Even a couple of years later, in a quote taken from her wedding announcement (she married the karaoke band's drummer), Lauren describes the PMK experience in similar terms: "it unleashed something I never knew existed." Drawing on imagery appropriate to a horror movie, she could just as easily be describing The Exorcist and its depiction of a young girl whose body and voice become instruments of the Devil.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Filth and the Fury: An Essay on Punk Rock Heavy Metal Karaoke
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.