pride (in the name of love (story))
bob mould was back in town this weekend for a solo acoustic show at the uptown glbt pride block party. thinking about mr. mould in this setting brings to mind a sophomoric observation. more precisely, it reminds me how something i observed as a sophomore forever changed my thinking.
as an angsty teenager, certain love songs by mr. mould and grant hart of husker du seemed to capture my own intense and confused and intensely confused feelings: girl who lives on heaven hill, green eyes, sorry somehow, standing in the rain, 2541, and -- my all-time favorite -- keep hanging on.
when i say "love song," i'm not talking about treacly lyrics. i'm talking about the sound of a flying-v chainsaw tearing into a heart-shaped cake on valentine's day. the simple heart-on-the-sleeve imagery, the visceral power-trio cacophony, the sweet melodies, and the urgent, masculine delivery all spoke to me like nothing i've heard before or since.
well, i was about 19 when i learned that mr. mould and mr. hart were probably not singing about girls in my favorite songs. nobody would have considered me homophobic at the time, but i think that part of me still believed there was some fundamental difference between straight love and queer love. by this time, gore vidal and others had told me that love=love, but i'm not sure i really believed it.
the crazygood love songs of husker du, however, proved conclusively to me that their love struck exactly the same emotional notes as my love. from that day forward, i just knew it in my bones. and the bones, of course, are where real prejudice lies. here's the strange part: several of my close high school friends had already come out by then; my emotional connection with the music had some sort of marginal effect on my attitudes, over and above that of my personal relationships.
cultural sociologists have given much more serious thought to issues of art and attitudes, but i can offer a few sophomoric observations based on this experience. while i'd like to think my experiences could be generalized, i'm skeptical about prospects for doing so -- at least in any sort of conscious way. first, my experience was fundamentally different than, say, watching a good spike lee movie that was designed to break through old prejudices. the goals of mr. mould and mr. hart were purely expressive -- changing sophomores' stereotypes about sexual preference was undoubtedly the very last thing on their minds. for any transformative experience to occur, the art must first move the audience, right? so moved, such transformations can occur organically.
second, individual reactions to art are notoriously idiosyncratic. for every husker du obsessive like me and those dudes in the posies, there are thousands who prefer, say, james taylor or justin timberlake. the process would seem to hinge on personal appreciation of the art and identification with the artist. finally, many folks don't even believe in love songs. or love. or songs. he's a million miles from husker du, but maybe mccartney was right after all.