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Fifth Column


Fifth Column - Boy, Girl EP - 7

Boy, Girl EP - 7"
Voicespondence - 1983


Michael Panontin
Fifth Column's G.B. Jones once said, "Queercore started in my apartment at Queen and Parliament," and that is really not too far off the mark. Long before riot grrrls like L7, Huggy Bear and Bikini Kill or gay activists like Pansy Division could even strum a guitar, this Toronto trio were plying their feminist-laden post-punk to anyone that would listen. At an early gig in 1980 at the now-demolished St. Paul's United Church - a show that included much of the new guard of angry youth including the likes of the Exploding Tickets and March of Values - the budding polemicists took to the altar of that deconsecrated venue and fumbled through a predictably DIY set.

But it hardly mattered as the die had been cast. Jones, Caroline Azar and (by 1986 anyway) Beverly Breckenridge set out on a career that would involve them in, variously, a xeroxed fanzine, graffiti bombing, numerous films from both sides of the camera, including work with queer icon Bruce La Bruce, and of course a recording career that would lead them all the way to the home of their gritty disciples, K Records, with their popular 36C set in 1994.

Jones and Azar met up just as the original punk movement, having served its real purpose I guess, had opened the doors for newer and more experimental ways for artists to voice their anger. The pair would later tell the Toronto Media Co-op how they had first met at a screening of Andy Warhol's Chelsea Girls at The Funnel Experimental Film Theatre in a basement on Duncan Street (the same space, interestingly, that first wave punks the Diodes had used for their scene-exploding Crash 'n' Burn club back in the summer of '77).

"I first saw Caroline at The Funnel," Jones explains, to which Azar adds, 'And concurrently, I was sick in love for the iconoclastic Bunny and The Lakers LP that GBJ was a big part of. I used to play that LP for hours. So when we met at the Shaw-a-go-go band practice space, there was this double take...yet, we didn't speak to each other for weeks since we were both very shy."

From there, they managed to hook up with Scott Kerr (of industrial-strength noisemakers the Party's Over), contributing six songs to his groundbreaking Urban Scorch compilation cassette. Fifth Column were quite clearly the most talented of the bunch on that tape and, what's more, the standout track was an early recording of 'Boy, Girl', the band's trippy take on male/female relations, which they would re-record the following year for this excellent seven-inch.

Boy, Girl is essentially a document of Fifth Column 1.0, especially as evinced in the title cut's staccato drumrolls, odd time changes, woozy synth and slight vocals a la the Mo-dettes or the Raincoats. For my money, it is, along with the menacing 'Inside Out' from their 1990 All-Time Queen of the World album, simply the best work they have ever cut to wax. Of the other two tracks, the better is 'Monsieur Beauchamps', a brooding bit of psychedelia that prods its mysterious namesake, accused of some sort of transgression, to promptly "spin around, turn around, get out of town".

Jones and La Bruce would later launch the hugely influential queer punk zine J.D.s, churning out eight issues in all between the years 1985 and 1991. And though the two young editors originally labelled their intentions as 'homocore', they later settled on the term 'queercore' partly because, as Jones explained, "we were just as eager to provoke the gays and lesbians as we were the punks."

Fifth Column themselves would record well into the nineties and were ultimately lionized on celluloid in Kevin Hegge's 2012 doc, She Said Boom, the title of which is taken from a song of the same name off All-Time Queen.... Azar summed things up nicely when she said, "Essentially, 'She said boom' are three simple words that, for us, mean being responsible for your own pocket-sized revolution." Mission accomplished, I would say.
         



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