Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Danny Reisch
Take youth and let it try to serve itself, let it try to figure out the unknowable passages through all of the various catacombs of getting by the babe bug unscathed and you're in for a treat or a catastrophe. There is no shortcut. There is no avoidance technique that has been proven to work and there is no balm that soothes the pinch and itch of it like Calamine lotion. If girls were like mosquito bites, The Virgins of the great city of New York, would be covered from head-to-toe with eraser-pink dots of ointment, hoping that all of the bite marks would stop needing fingernails. When the girls hit, they hit hard. We hear that matter-of-factly in lead singer Donald Cumming's droll and disaffected voice. What's always been so downright boggling about these girls, in the majority of all cases, is that they've always been able to stay four steps ahead of the curve - or just their male adversaries/guppies - in the art of cunning.
These babes can dice you like onions. They can become invisible. They can X-ray glass right through sorry lies and they can do with or do without. In most of the recorded dialogue about these matters of sneaky and bedeviling women - be it text or music - has the ladies winning, by a landslide. They are cagier, by far. They make those boys into the putty that they're not supposed to be and then just work them over until they're red in the face or bawling in a heap.
The Virgins used to presuppose that everything was bit more even-handed -- that the boys and the girls were about to play the rubber game in the series, but it would likely go deep into extra innings and then get suspended because of darkness. They used to presuppose that no one was ever going to succeed in conquering the other completely, that there would be a tie forever. This would be a stalemate, flaming off into the sunset like a chemical trail off of an airplane, making its own kind of pink and orange cloudy spiral. Both sides were formidable -- advancing and rebuffing. There was a general theme of coy aloofness running through Cumming's tales of slippery ladies and dodgy nights.
The men that Cumming puts in front of us on the band's newest record, "Strike Gently," are wrinkled versions of their former selves. They've been able to live with themselves for a while longer. They've had more encounters and they've been burned a time or twenty. They are now not so cocky about their prospects. They have been served some tough doses of what posed for a bit as love. Cumming has begun to sound a bit more like a codger, like a man who has wasted plenty of nights and days on the wrong people, but he still recognizes that he'll likely do it all over again and he'll just keep trying to get through the fiascoes with cigarettes and the costly thick skin that he's been building up over the years.
*Parts of this essay originally published May, 2008
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