When Everything Cliks
Let's forget for a moment that The Cliks are a revolutionary rock group simply because of who their members are. Let's focus first on their exquisite music.
Take a listen to "Oh Yeah," from the album "Snakehouse." (video below). Why can't all rock anthems be this raw? There's a scraped-throat wail in singer Lucas Silveira's voice that makes his lower register sound just devastated, which fits a song about friends and lovers who don't treat each other well.
The anger of wounded pride is palpable in how Silveira sings "Oh Yeah's" verses, and that makes his performance on the chorus and bridge even more dramatic. In those sections, Silveira hits pure high notes, trembling through lines like "he's not listening" and "I want my baby back." Those notes are musical surprises, and they make the track even more dynamic.
And the music mimics those unexpected turns. For the most part, "Oh Yeah" is straight-up rock. The power of the drums and electric guitars keeps us chugging forward like a runaway train. It's the kind of tempo that makes me think of running, possibly throwing punches at the same time.
But during the bridge, everything drops away except Silveira's vocal, a soft guitar, and some light percussion.
Yet even though the volume drops, the tempo stays the same. Even in the quiet, there's still motion, like someone pacing the room and muttering. All these elements fuse into one of the most arresting rock tracks I've heard in a while.
But just when you think you know them, The Cliks come at you with a slow-groove cover of "Cry Me a River" by Justin Timberlake. And you guys? It works. They're not making fun of the song. They're digging into it and finding a musical core they can reinvent. Their version has just as much soul as J.T.'s, and it has twice the aggression.
(Want to hear "Cry Me A River," "Oh Yeah," plus two more great cuts from the album? Go to this particularly well-stocked MySpace page.)
If this great album were all The Cliks had to offer, they'd be offering plenty, but they've got more. For one thing, drummer Morgan Doctor, guitarist Nina Martinez, and bassist Jan Benton are all queer women. And how many kick-ass rock groups have multiple queers? Or multiple women?
Then there's Lucas Silveira: a transman fronting this group with swagger, power, and skill. (For those who don't know the lingo, a "transman" is a transgendered person who is born as a biological woman but realizes he identifies as a man. As with a transwoman, sexual reassignment surgery is sometimes--but not always--part of a transman's identity.)
And dammit if I don't find it really inspiring that Silveira and his band are out there doing what they do. Because with music this catchy, sexuality is beside the point. I think most rock fans can find an emotional connection with The Cliks' music. Like me, for instance. While I enjoy the ironic detachment of groups like The Killers and Fall Out Boy, it's nice to hear something so unguarded.
If we can connect to artists like this--feel like they speak to part of us somehow--it makes it easier to resist the barrage of homophobic hatred that keeps tearing through this country. It's harder to fear people when you know they can move you.
So listen to The Cliks: that sound they're making--loud, fierce, and amazing--is a sound that trans, gay, and queer people make every day. It's a sound most people make every day. It's the sound of fighting back against what's wrong-- in love or politics--with a wild burst of energy.
It's a sound I love hearing.