by Mike LeSuer (@zebraabraham)
For those of us who never had the opportunity to attend space camp as kids, Connecticut’s self-proclaimed hell jazz trio offer an inside look into the reckless aggression, gender dysphoria, and bodily anxieties evidently characteristic of an educational week spent investigating the night sky. Inhabiting the shadowy recesses of the recent Queercore new wave as initiated by the likes of G.L.O.S.S. and Aye Nako, Space Camp is the wrath wrought upon our culture for perpetuating force-fed gender roles that are impossible to identify with. Aptly titled Force Femmed, their sophomore release continues their uninhibited approach to hardcore punk reminiscent of Daughters, Some Girls, Femme Fatale, and other hypermasculine bands from the bygone day of The Locust.
Femmed is a glorious trainwreck from start to finish - the trio’s synchronous snarling about masculinity is appropriately accompanied by Cameron Lovett’s equally-angsty bass, Sam Usifer’s crashing drum kit, and Jon Whitlin’s impetuous keys. In fact, synth-driven tracks like “Damn it to Piss” and “Manatee on the Sidewalk” suggest the band’s influences lie more heavily in the arena of Hot Hot Heat’s criminally overlooked (and perhaps rightfully slandered) first album as evinced by Whitlin’s aptness for hitting all the wrong keys at all the right times, as well as the group’s stark deficiency of guitar.
Meanwhile, Whitlin’s trombonic contributions on “Rock the Dwayne Johnson” and “My Mansion in Georgia” color the project a particularly filthy shade of ska, climaxing mid-album with the apparent backing of a local high school marching band horn section prior to their first day of practice. The sonic equivalent to collapsing into mucus-abetted tears half an hour into your own birthday party, “Bazooka the Venue” offers 80 seconds of increasingly heinous breakdown over the course of a conscientiously uncomfortable two minutes. Not to be outdone, the record reaches another peak shortly after when the Blacklisters-indebted “Dolphin on the Sidewalk” corrodes into a shouting match (“WHICH ONE’S THE BOY? (WHICH ONE’S THE BOY??) / WHICH ONE’S THE GIRL? (WHICH ONE’S THE GIRL??)”) with a messy resolution.
The album concludes as shockingly as it begins with the sexy alto of Clara Zornado on “Space Camp Face Tattoo,” counteracting all of the quote-unquote masculine energy crashing through the previous fifteen minutes. As strange and wonderful as each track (and its corresponding title) is, the album is clearly fueled by a claustrophobia symptomatic of a queerphobic society, and the anxieties elicited feel genuine despite their goofy labels (see: “Gender Reveal Party”). Force Femmed - as well as the group’s previous releases and the greater queercore community - proves a crucial statement within the context of the LGBTQ music scene, as irony does little to diffuse the frequent vexations of queer and gender non-conforming humans.
As far as their tortured account of the space camp experience goes - we’ll have to take their word for it.