Net Nuggets 25: Team Plastique & the Revenge of the Golden Pineapples

Mmm… «neon lights» and «fishnet tights»… some of my favourite things… As is Team Plastique's live show. In a year that saw your correspondent witness the mighty Michael Gira spitting and stomping on an Australian mountaintop; fly to Brussels and back just to be hypnotised by Larkin Grimm's magickal mouth; to London and back for the sole purpose of experiencing the legendary Fall; and Oslo gigs by the likes of Animal Collective, the Dodos, Vetiver and not least the Walkmen, it was to be Team Plastique's performance at Sjokoladefabrikken in Oslo on the 28th of November that opened the long-clogged floodgates of bliss inside this blogger… We here at Toilet Guppies are loathe to sum up the year that's been, not least with pointless lists, but this was most assuredly the live experience of 2009. (Only Chopper Read & Anal Cunt's cancelled gig in Oslo could possibly have surpassed it…)

Say what you will of the whole Berlin electropunk/-clash/ -whatever movement, it reinvigorated rock at a time when it had become as humourless, self-important and conformist as the moody teen demographic literally buying into it. So anybody with a funny bone and a boner should be forever grateful to Peaches. But although Toilet Guppies would never—NEVER!—say a bad word about the only Peach with a hole in the middle, the Def Leppard schtick of her live show (although funny to those who got the references and the academically Feminist irony) never quite delivered on the raw emotional promise of «Fuck the Pain Away». (And don't get me started on the excruciatingly cutesy, aerobics-heavy, girls-just-wanna-have-fun light comedy show of the otherwise kick-ass, ball-breaking Le Tigre.) Enter Australian expat Berliners Team Plastique, for those of us who like our electropunk with a slice of Yoko Ono rather than Joan Jett… interactive absurdist spectacle rather than distant stadium rock poses… Team Plastique are to Peaches or Le Tigre what the Rolling Stones were to the Beatles and what the Stooges were to the Stones… what SWANS were to Sonic YouthSuicide to KraftwerkPeaches to Lady GaGa! Dear reader, Team Plastique delivers.

Now, certain people are singlemindedly oriented towards happiness. To achieve it, and to keep it. (You know the ones: they arrive at the club with their pretty friends and, regardless of the toxicity in their bloodstream, dance and squeal with glee and have «good, clean fun».) For some, there's a simplicity to this state of mind—it reduces an otherwise complicated existence to an (in a sense) timeless moment, unmolested by worry. (Worry being what carries over from the past, and what projects us into the future.) But such people don't really flee into the present moment; the simplicity they somehow manage to maintain in their lives—in their minds—doesn't give them cause for escapism. They're lucky to be more or less happy, and they don't feel the urge and certainly don't consciously consider pursuing anything but the Happy Medium. To those fortunate enough to be largely spared the wretchedness of bad DNA or shit circumstances, there's enjoyment on this side, and suffering on that. Cut and dry!

But there's a secret, ineffable, liminal something to partying, besides joy. In fact, joy has little to do with it. Joy is innocent, and there's nothing innocent about thrill. (Although there is enjoyment in there.)
This is something certain dope fiends and sex maniacs intuit, and it's what the song below, by electropunk cabaret trio Team Plastique, sparks up in the otherwise only faintly flickering synapses of a jaded, old hedonist trying to put into words what his brain sneaked past his thoughts:

It's what grinning people who think they dance exceptionally well on E's—or people who one day suddenly throw back a batch of magic mushrooms on a whim, only to laugh heartedly and without any existential dread whatsoever, or even a single wave of panic for the entire eight hours—will never know. It's the twilight rush from knowing, when braving a risk (whether it be a physical, biochemical, medical or a moral one), «This might not end well.» It's an unformed thought, sweeping the bottom of your consciousness like a feeling that's not been given a word yet, spreading across your body between your skin and flesh, making you cold to the touch, numb and electric at the same time. It's the boost of meth, it's the fear of AIDS, it's lust, it's transgression, it's adrenaline. It's pure instinct making you want to do things you know you need not to do. It's the pang of delight that accompanies the very moment you decide to go with whatever flow it is that just led you past the point of no return of some unsavoury act you know is wrong (and maybe a little disgusting), and which will blossom into fully fledged guilt, but that's later. For now, you're alive, and that's about as clearly and concisely as I can put it.

Like at any decent party, there's fun in Team Plastique's music. There's humour, there's sex. (My God, is there sex!) Hell, at their not-to-be-missed shows there are even pineapples, massacred and thrust mercilessly upon the audience… There are combinations that confuse you, with a pink-haired woman walking in the audience telling everyone she loves them while a kabuki-faced bag lady lies seemingly lifeless onstage. (The ol' Def Leppard'n'Feminist politics it ain't!)

Listen to the disharmonic guitar and synths on «Game Show Lights», and tell me there's not an undercurrent here—the aural equivalent to
the party animal's determined yet not clearly formulated intent to self-destruct… while having fun. By way of fun. And the vocals… well, for the verses it's a bit like the mumbled fantasies of a decadent model, only 14 and already jaded as she's seen it all, absentmindedly masturbating with not even her horniness up to alleviating the boredom… Ah, ennui!

Not to get too high fallutin' here, but if entering the club you feel like you want to lose yourself, this song reminds you that not only blue-eyed joy can provide transcendence. There are other avenues, whether it be the road of excess leading to the palace of wisdom, or just another royal road to ruin:

This and other mp3 samples of Team Plastique's cyberkabuki orgasmagoria may freely be downloaded from the band's website. For CDs… well, if you find any copies, buy one for me, too…

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