Net Nuggets 36: Clara Engel

Clara Engel: «Lick My Fins» [mp3]

Sometimes, it's hard to tell whether the spiritual impulse of religion is really the lust to be one with the world beyond your lonely self—like those medieval nuns visited at night by ecstatic visions of the «light» of Jesus «penetrating» them—or whether you're just a single minded, one track degenerate for ever thinking so in the first place. Pervert.

Regardless, scripture is a great source for loophole pornography—suggestive literature heavy with similes and symbolism from a time when people were too bashful, prudish or classy to be outright and crass about it. Because, you know, like Sparks sing, «Chicks dig dig D-I-G dig dig metaphors / Use them wisely, use them well / and you'll never know the hell / of loneliness». I'm sure a lot of those guys who penned the Bible got laid. They would've been the rock stars of their day and age.

And why not? As any fan of gospel music can attest to, the raptures of religion and of rumpy-pumpy are closely related. The Bible's Song of Solomon, for instance, is one long, bawdy allegory for wanting to be one with God, trying to convince us faith can feel as good as fucking. Turning this onto its head are singer-songwriters who show us that fucking can feel as meaningful as faith. And what better metaphor than the Holy Ghost, with its tongue and tendency to fill people?
Let the Holy Spirit lick my fins
I want to crawl back to the ocean
For you
Lose my limbs and my lungs
My agility of tongue
For you
This sultry little couplet is sung by Canadian cabaret mermaid Clara Engel. Imagine if burlesque was still innovative and alive and relevant as an edgy art form, sexual once again and not just kitsch, quaint and cute, this is the type of song you might hear at a show. Far more literate than the old Betty Boop-oop-ee-doo/«teach-me-tiger» schtick, it would actually stir something in you.

Other than the burlesque-esque jazz of the arrangement, the composition hints at Middle Eastern melody and so, by extension, the crazy Judeo-Christian religious frenzy that is, despite everything else about it, actually quite sensual… Hips swaying, bellies dancing, pelvises grinding, slow and determined… Thankfully, the backing band is more focused on sonic texture than on squeezing in as many notes and rhythm changes as possible. It's jazz as played by perverts, which is exactly what that particular genre needs more of, cerebral and stuck in a time warp as it is.

Women routinely go weak at the knees just at the thought of a man who can sing or play the guitar, but it's not often a man is given cause to go weak at the knees upon hearing a female performer. Sure, there are men drooling over hit list divas given music video make-overs, but that's not about the vivifying music, mesmerising charisma or shimmering eloquence as much as the lighting, clothing (or lack thereof) and Photoshop. So it feels good to hear the powerful, confident singing of a succubus challenging and perhaps even scaring you a little bit with the sheer force of her voice and convictions, sensual to the point of obliterating mysticism. Personally, I haven't felt a sensation quite like this since I heard PJ Harvey command me, through the speakers, in no uncertain terms to lick her legs.

And tell me true: Is there any sexier image than that of a woman crawling on her hands and knees through the hot sand towards the beckoning waves and slow ebb of the undulating sea? This woman wants to go back all the way to the birthplace of life for you… to seek out the original life force for you… go bathe in the primordial soup with you…

Don't you want to go with?

[«Lick My Fins» is from Engel's 2009 album, Secret Beasts.]

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