Good comp makin’ is a sous-chef’s craft. A little new stuff from elder stateswomen, a little good stuff from newbies. Mr. Lady, home to Le Tigre and the Butchies, mastered this recipe years ago. The label’s second compilation, Calling All Kings and Queens, destroys any preconceived notions of twat rock.
To wit: Indigo Girl Amy Ray’s rowdy live rendition of “Lucy Stoners,” in which the singer, performing solo with acoustic guitar, starts off friendly enough, but toward the end nearly froths at the mouth about “a faggot-bashing poetry” (rap), Jann Wenner, and other perceived industry ills. Blessed be the nature of the compilation CD for such moments; this number, coming between a weirdly glorious lo-fi song by imaginatively seafaring queers Navy and a translucent lullaby by Portland, Maine’s kind, decent, and very own Darien Brahms, wouldn’t come off as strikingly anywhere else. (A Sylvain Sylvain-does-Sylvester comp? Maybe.)
Then once an established performer like Ray (or Le Tigre, or Sleater-Kinney, or the Butchies, all offering quality previously unheard work) gets you to pick up the CD in the first place, you’re held captive by the likes of dark neophytes California Lightening, the beguilingly bitchy Sissies, or NYC cabaret drag duo Kiki & Herb: Hear what the couple does with SK’s “I’m Not Waiting.” Raucous, absolutely earth-shattering, Little Richard-on-steroids, up-tempo pianoforte is the sole foundation over which Kiki sings, in his/her best Broadway belt, “I’m not way-eee-taaaaang,” with that erudite-queen, Isaac Mizrahi-esque, nasal vibrato at the end, “till I grow uhhhp/To be a whoah-/mah-hahhhh-aaaaan!!!” It’s just what most Mr. Lady fans need but might never get outside of Compland: a touch of showstopping humor.