Punk Slash! Musicals: Tracking Slip-Sync on Film

Punk Slash! Musicals: Tracking Slip-Sync on Film

Punk Slash! Musicals: Tracking Slip-Sync on Film

Punk Slash! Musicals: Tracking Slip-Sync on Film

Synopsis

Punk Slash! Musicals is the first book to deal extensively with punk narrative films, specifically British and American punk rock musicals produced from roughly 1978 to 1986. Films such as Jubilee, Breaking Glass, Times Square, Smithereens, Starstruck, and Sid and Nancy represent a convergence between independent, subversive cinema and formulaic classical Hollywood and pop musical genres. Guiding this project is the concept of "slip-sync." Riffing on the commonplace lip-sync phenomenon, "slip-sync" refers to moments in the films when the punk performer "slips" out of sync with the performance spectacle, and sometimes the sound track itself, engendering a provocative moment of tension. This tension frequently serves to illustrate other thematic and narrative conflicts, central among these being the punk negotiation between authenticity and un-authenticity. Laderman emphasizes the strong female lead performer at the centre of most of these films, as well as each film's engagement with gender and race issues. Additionally, he situates his analyses in relation to the broader cultural and political context of the neo-conservatism and new electronic audio-visual technologies of the 1980s, showing how punk's revolution against the mainstream actually depends upon a certain ironic embrace of pop culture.

Excerpt

Jordan- intimate insider of the early London punk scene, circa 1976; notorious salesclerk at Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s seminal punk fashion shop, SEX; comrade of Johnny Rotten and Siouxsie Sioux—is up on a stage in the role of Amyl Nitrate, strutting around in a most shocking costume: plastic British flag wrapped around her torso, high heels, Roman warrior helmet, loads of splotchy makeup. She is auditioning for the media czar of a future British dystopia, one that looks remarkably like 1977 London. She is not singing; she is lip-syncing to the blasting music track, a punk version of “Rule, Britannia.” At a certain moment in the performance, military aircraft can be heard flying overhead: is the noise part of the sound track or part of the fiction? Jordan seems distracted, loses her place, slips out of sync. and the gesture seems to work, highlighting her irreverent uninterest in keeping either the seams of spectacle hidden or her body and “voice” together.

This moment from Derek Jarman’s Jubilee (1978) is symptomatic and symbolic of a range of attitudes characteristic of punk’s early days. Indeed, such a performance gesture recurs in several other punk-musical films that emerged over the next few years. Today such playful slippages in synchronization are more commonplace; but in the early 1980s, they reflected punk’s critique of new modes of music representation and consumption. I aim to delineate this critique by considering a somewhat neglected cycle of punk narrative films. Lacking the ultrasloppy no-budget look of many punk documentaries, these narrative films achieve their distinctive complexity in how they represent punk music, dealing variously with musicians, fans, clubs, concerts, songs, marketing, and managers. More importantly, they help us appreciate the threshold over which punk traveled into its more diversified afterlife.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.