by Phil Scarisbrick
It is an odd thing that, although there have been many big steps forward in the acceptance of queer people and their relationships over the last few years, the usually liberal-leaning music industry still sees lesbian relationships through the prism of a fetishised, heteronormative view. From t.A.T.u.’s cynically fictitious relationship, right through to Katy Perry kissing a girl and liking it, the purpose was more about titillating straight men than representing the lives of queer women. On Any Human Friend, Marika Hackman unleashes a contemptuous antidote for these missteps, and in doing so has created an astonishing collection of songs that is about much more than is obvious on the surface.
Adorning the album’s sleeve is a picture of Hackman, almost nude – her modesty shielded only by a massive pair of white pants and a breast-shielding piglet. Before you even drop the needle, this absurdly hilarious image evokes both confidence and fragility, setting up what you’re about to hear perfectly. The lo-fi, acoustic wanderlust gives the impression that Hackman may have returned to her folky roots, but as it transitions into the follow-up – the one – a spiralling synth builds into a much brighter, palm-muted guitar riff. The electro-pop number tackles the idea that when we’re analysing another person, we’re really holding a mirror up to ourselves, before hilariously describing her ‘BDE’ (Big Dick Energy) and being ‘a God sent gift, and all you fuckers want my dick’. This juxtaposing sincerity and humour is thread that courses throughout the record.
On conventional ride, we hear Hackman take aim at the straight women who want to use her as a sexual experiment. The layers of guitars drip all over each other before giving way to a melody-rich verse and chorus combo that puts a real sheen on Hackman’s frustrations. Its predecessor – hand solo – is about exactly what you’d imagine a song of that moniker would be about, while come undone sees her unsure of whether to settle down (‘I think that I love her’) or keep it casual (‘I like it that you never let me stay the night when we’ve got it on’). The final song on the record is also the title track, and ties the whole thing together.
So, although the portrayal of her sexuality on this album is incredibly important, it is merely a piece of the jigsaw. What Hackman has created is a wryly hilarious, dark, sumptuous pop record that is both self-depricating and self-agrandising at the same time. The music is a bonanza of stylish guitar lines and achingly catchy melodies, with structures that allow these facets to shine. In creating this record to help people “accept each other for being these brilliant, golden shiny things”, she has also made a new “brilliant, golden shiny thing” for us all to enjoy. You will read many reviews that try to boil it down to what is on the surface – and cynically headlining the sexual themes that are anything but cynical – but dig a little deeper, and you will be immersed in all the complexities that make us who we are, (genital) warts and all.
Secret Meeting score: 83