It is rare that I, Paul Morley, a man variously described as a “prophet” or “guru”, find myself late to the table of some new musical banquet. But I shall admit that in the case of Canadian dream pop singer Claire Boucher, who performs under the moniker Grimes, I have found myself sitting down to eat halfway through the entrée – nothing but a crumb of toasted brioche remains of the foie gras. Still, if something grabs you it grabs you and just because I wasn’t the first to recognise Ms. Boucher’s talents, as I was with Joy Division, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, The Drones and Kylie Minogue (in the actual, not artificial sense, of course), doesn’t mean I cannot guide you through the sensational (as in, “causing a sensation”) video to her hit MP3 single “Oblivion”.
We begin a waif amidst the jocks. Daniel(lla) in the lion’s den. The woman as woman. The man as man. Boucher, surely, is playing with Judith Butler’s concept of gender as a performance. What we are seeing here is what Butler refers to as society’s “unwitting regulation and reification of gender relations”. The men are the most men they can be and Boucher, as the woman, as the Little Red Riding Hood figure, is the most woman she can be. But who is in control of this situation? Surely, this young woman, empowered and of the now, will not be taking a backseat while the jocks play around with their toys (I am talking, of course, of the penis, God’s toy).
We are at an American football game but we are watching Motocross, the support act. Here then, a sly reference to the elevation of Grimes from support act to headliner. Having, like the motorbikes, jumped through hoops for her fans, Boucher now finds herself in control of the event. Furthermore, we are shown the Motocross in the background. The camera only has eyes for Boucher. It is trained on her. It loves her. It devours her. She is performing, standing facing the audience, her three gold buttons commanding the attention like the three horsemen of the apocalypse. She is the performance. Performance, performative, the performing self, the throwing off of the shackles, the mask of the entertainer…
Boucher moves seamlessly between peoples and cultures. Not for her the insipid uniformity of the indie disco. Not for her for the parade of skinny young men with their hair and their tight clothing. Yes, she is telling us, I number black men among my friends. And what of it? I am from a new generation of white indie girl, a generation that is as happy hanging out with rugged football-playing men of African origin as it is smoking Bobby Brown with the latest Pete ’n’ Carl.
What could be more American than the cheerleader? “See you on a dark night,” Boucher trills over a spare backing track. And as we look at the soulless pageantry of the cheerleaders we come to know this profound truth: that people who participate in mainstream North American activities are dead inside. Their nights are the darkest. The artificial femininity of the cheerleaders clashes with the free spirited beauty of Boucher, who I would like to take home to Macclesfield and make my wife.
“Securite”, the man’s track top reads, a flash of the exotic amid the Anglo-Protestant parade. A reward, here, for the eagle eyed who will have noted “McGill” emblazoned on the football jersey of one of Boucher’s earlier interlocutors. McGill, of course, Canada’s most famous university, an institution so grand it fails to see the merit in my groundbreaking “Words and Music” lecture series. “Securite” of course, the French word for “security”. French, of course, the language of the descendants of French emigrants who made their way to Canada, settling mainly in the Quebec region and founding the Québécois nation… Canada, “oh Canada”, as Joni Mitchell once sang, America but so much more, America but imbued with the creative spirit, capable of producing artists of the intensity and originality of Grimes whose sequined hooded top I would smell all night long if I could.
Throughout, images of the violent masculinity have abounded. But Boucher has tamed all and here she is, queen of the jocks, sovereign of the lads. The latent sexuality spirals off these topless men, its smoky plumes clearly visible to those who, like I, can picture sub-text. But these lions are reduced, in the presence of this dream pop indie princess, to mere kittens. Kittens with throbbing boners. “See you on a dark night,” Boucher intones. If only she would.
As told to OSCAR RICKETT (@oscarrickettnow)