The term hyperreal used to get passed around a lot. Hyperreality is, ya know, when reality becomes indistinguishable from fantasy and the distinction between an original and a copy is unintelligible. Bay Area queer punk group Hunx and His Punx could be called a hyperreal fantasy of John Waters’ imagination, were it not for the fact that the Queens of John Water’s Baltimore really were that awesome. It’s more like this: art is desire’s time machine and Hunx and His Punx just walked out of celluloid and into San Francisco.
The band (and sister group The Younger Lovers) have been jerking out some of the hottest, horniest, boy-on-boy action this side of the Internet. Their noise is enough to convey what the group is about, but it’s their videos that really show gender evolving, evading post-AIDS responsibility, and most of all positioning gay where we always want it to be: one of the highly dangerous subcultures no one wants their child to be part of. Bruce LaBruce is making gay subversive again, Hunx (né Seth Bogard) is hitting the revolutionary notes like a vidiot in perversion’s arcade, gay has returned subervise, perverse, and most of all, irritating in all the ways it’s supposed to be.
So geee…. what about that music? Queer punk appears to be measured in sensous ballads and not in the simple dimension of agression. Hunx’s garage rock is full of cat calls, rockabilly impulses, a symphony of 1950s and 1960s style girl group voices, and above them all, Hunx’s call. The songs are self-consciously cheesy and at least two feature statements on youth, usually followed by a league of Hunx’s girlie friends turning ’em over. Other themes include make out spots, bad boys (both being taken by and staying away from), generic Johnnies that seem to haunt Hunx the way they haunted the Ramones, and of course, the staple of rock ballads, the night. If one concatenates all this imagery together, we are left in a weird alterna-reality 1960s where genders fly through the roof but sex is still a good indicator of who rides motorcycles. Tough guys are bottoms, like a queer appropiation of riot grrrl sent back to John Waters with a twist. Freedom explodes through sheer indifference to heteronormative pressure. This isn’t fortitude Hunx presents, it’s just a shrug at normality and a quick fuck you in the face.
So geee… what about those videos? Hunx first came on my radar when a fairy-like creature made folk in the forests around Berkeley and sang with a skunk on YouTube. The band has amassed a video catalog that’s so chuck full of ideas, props, and mutations that other bands really struggle to have media this awesome. Hunx-land is an anything goes type of place: boyfriends come in (to borrow a Vaginal Davis term) both homonormative and (to borrow from Vaginal Davis again) punky selections. Drag queens, always in the Waters-esque campy form, do your hair, while rave remixes push around and, basically, the queer creativity level goes through the roof as sexualities unhinge and fucking takes on a whole new scope. Just watch Justin Kelly‘s videos and see all the gender mutants for yourself.
Hunx, who I missed in his first iteration in the Kill Rock Stars electro-pop group Gravy Train!!!!, is kinda the perfect gay mascot for an indie subculture intent on proving its open mindedness. But their strict coda of meeting gay expectations and exceeding them – the way they are almost gloriously unoriginal – is what makes them precious. Hunx just likes rock’n’roll, boys and girlie pop. In his spare time, he’s even a hair dresser. This is queer in the third wave, one in which the gay role (much like a woman’s role in Luce Irigaray‘s writing) becomes liberating by the exact oppression imposed on it.
In a culture in which gays increasingly have the same rights and opportunities as heterosexuals, Hunx (and for that matter, Scott Thompson’s character Buddy Cole) suggests that the fun of it is being opressed for being who you are. That is, the reality of queer looks nothing like Justin Kelly’s videos and, in fact, is much more like those poor little boys in Texas who killed themselves or the thousands of transsexuals that make up a surprisingly high number of America’s unsolved murders is what the band over writes. We are still living in a culture that murders and humilates other human beings on the basis of gender identification and sexuality. Hunx is a great icon of gay possibility and he allows the liberal to see the nirvana of queer that acceptance provides, but it needs to be kept in mind that he is far from the reality of it.Visit: Hunx and His Punx | Hardly Art
Purchase: Insound | eMusic