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photo by David Boswell
Mecca Normal, the Canadian duo of Vancouver, is one of the seminal bands of the nineties riot movement. Active from the first half of the 80’s, they produced during their career a series of D.I.Y video clips. inspired by the best American and Canadian underground tradition
Jean Smith and David Lester of Vancouver, Canada, formed the Mecca Normal in 1984, transforming the fanzine curated by Smith himself “Smarten UP! “How to Change the World Publications” on a label, just to publish their first, homonymous album, just two years later.
Speech and guitar duo within the complex context identified in the “nineties” riot grrrl movement, Mecca Normal contributes to the “official inauguration” of the concept with all the women who in 1991 opened the International Pop international convention in Olympia Underground, but they have been in the language since the beginning, with an unambiguous, politically and feminist approach, combining activism with direct forms of expression such as poetry, painting, writing, so that it immediately becomes a reference point inspiration for musicians such as Kathleen Hanna.
Absorbed by Calvin Johnson’s K Records (Beat Happening, Halo Benders), they republish their first Ep titled “Oh Yes You Can,” and immediately produce three video clips to promote it.
Video clips, which will become a distinctive sign in the duo career to date, exploit the techniques, materials, and language of underground cinema (from found footage to gratage, from reduced media to home movies). Regarding “Oh Yes You Can” accompany every EP song, but they do not come close to the longer structured forms (Devo, The The) because they reject the digested form for the market so as to remain fiercely out of touch broadcasting circuits.
Directly by David Lester or Smith himself, who often introduces his work as a painter, are small “expressionist” experiments, in line with the tradition of the American Underground Cinema, with which Mecca Normal and Lester certainly look devoutly, like all the underground American movement born around the musical scene of those years (Dave Markey, Richard Kern) while maintaining a strongly materialistic approach to the images.
Between the spring and summer of 1986, Mecca Normal participates in the Black Wedge Tour along with a crew of poets, anarchists, musicians moving on a bus across the states, bringing together music and political activity. Part of the images contained in the videos, document that journey, while the sounds of that tour can be heard on the Band band band profile.
Tensely D.I.Y. in “Man Thinks Woman”, song and video made in 1987, try to overthrow some gender norms from verbal communication: “Man thinks” woman “when he talks to me / Something not quite right”
In a parallel dimension, compared to a time when “ism” are almost always formal and formally empty to fit into social containers, the Mecca Normal are still active. A sip of fresh water.
Original article in Italian September 19, 2017