WKNH Music Director
10 years ago in January, Jordaan Mason, joined by their collective orchestra The Horse Museum, released what would be an earmark album in the cannon of queer art. “Divorce Lawyer I Shave my Head” is a tender yet confrontational record. It is at times singing, angelic even, and at others it is dark, grimey and abrasive. An album of contradictions and hard to swallow notions.
The album opens with a confrontation of a cis/hetero notion of sex and love, all the while providing a grotesque and beautiful image all on it’s own.
This is the opening line to the opening track “Bird’s nest”: “my mouth is filled with his ovaries. I hold them, here: between my teeth.” Right off the bat, Mason makes the scope of the album perfectly clear.
There will be trans bodies, there will be sex, and there will be an unflinching look at how those bodies sexuality interact, rendered in a wooded inky sludge. According to the album’s liner notes, the album portrays the divorce between two genderqueer individuals in the middle of a violent war known as the “glandolinian war in 1990.”
The songs’ lengths shoot from around two minutes and all the way to eight minutes. It is a winding release.
The longest song on the record is also the most jagged, which can make the album a tough end to end listen. But it’s worth it.
The songs are lush and well crafted, the swelled ranks of The Horse Museum, an ensemble 12 members strong, provide rich musical accompaniment.
The lyrics and vocal performance join to give life to the imagery in the album. Everything is felt in full.
This album’s importance is in how it does not flinch from the realm of the dysphoric.
Those things which even in the trans community are tended toward not being spoken about.
They evoke a kind of sickening sadness about the disparity between body and reality. It is the way that Mason fearlessly portrays the trans body and the rigors of loving in a trans body are revealed in the line “Are you a girl with a c**k? I’m a boy who can’t talk.”
Trans bodies don’t really exist all that much in the lyrical music we listen to. There are a few references here or there; that song Lola. Lou Reed wrote about trans women and queer folks. But they were cis men. Their songs may be great—a lot of people say they are.
Divorce Lawyers I Shave My Head isn’t just a quick glance or reference to the existence of trans bodies and the complexities of our love and sex.
As trans people—FYI I am a trans women, meaning my pronouns are she/her—our bodies and the myriad of ways we feel in them are often obscured and oppressed by a cis-normative society. Reed and whoever wrote “Lola” don’t illuminate the battleground of experience that is being a trans person in this cis world.
They do not express how hard it can be to love someone, to make love with them, when you are constantly working through your on personal bodily exploration, or to hate your body and project onto yourself or your lover, the transphobic and cisexsist prejudiced which is so prevalent in society.
Mason focuses on these experiences. They paint these scenes with lovely impressionism. It is unflinching. There are amazing songs to be heard here.
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