Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 30-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.
In this week’s column, I continue to compare songs on Calico Kills The Cat with songs on our new album, Empathy For The Evil, from start to finish. See notes from Sept. 6, 2014.
3. “One Woman” (Calico Kills The Cat, 1989) This song intends to reduce political activism down to specific elements, to demystify how change occurs. One woman made a decision and took action. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.
3. “Wasn’t Said” (Empathy For The Evil, 2014) I wrote the lyrics during a break in communication with someone I had been emailing back and forth with—someone I’d never met. When communication stopped, I became very aware how unavailable that person was and how my brain hadn’t made a distinction between an internet connection and a tangible person right in front of me. Such emotions can be very powerful, and I think it’s difficult for people who haven’t experienced internet connections to understand how that can be. For a time, I was quite fascinated by what the brain was doing that encouraged intensity without a physical presence. The lyrics are from my novel Obliterating History—a guitar-making mystery, domination & submission in a small town garage in a scene after a couple splits up and the woman moves to another city, lamenting what was never said between them. She didn’t anticipate the confusion it would cause her not knowing if he’d loved her.
Comparing these two songs brings to mind the idea that stereotypes need to be challenged by acknowledging that women in music—or other forms of self-expression—are not one-dimensional entities we require to stay in character to be understood or believable. Women are many things all at the same time: powerful, smart, funny, intense, sexual, vulnerable and everything in between. It’s utterly tedious to keep having to digest the image of a one-dimensional woman as an object that men feel entitled to define and use. That this spills out into the lives of actual people is a ridiculous travesty.
“One Woman” from Calico Kills The Cat (K, 1989; Matador, 1991; Smarten Up!, 2003) (download):