[post updated Friday, June 22, 1:46 p.m. EDT: The earlier version of this post failed to acknowledge Hill Kourkoutis's involvement in the production of the album discussed below. I further presumed, based on a live performance I attended in late June that featured Silveira supported by male-bodied band members, that the Cliks are now a male-bodied band. Kourkoutis's comment below clarifies and corrects my (erroneous) assumption.]
It can’t be coincidence that the first song on Lucas Silveira’s 2011 solo album, “Mockingbird,” is a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man.” The song starts like this:
If you want a lover
I’ll do anything you ask me to
And if you want another kind of love
I’ll wear a mask for you
If you want a partner
Take my hand
Or if you want to strike me down in anger
Here I stand
I’m your man
Silveira is a transgendered male and has been fairly open and public about his transition. As the lead singer of the Cliks, he reportedly avoided taking testosterone in order to maintain his (female) singing voice, but in 2010 the Cliks split up, Silveira went solo, and his voice dropped noticeably as he began taking testosterone.
By the way, I’ve never accepted the media’s (mainstream, queer, or alternative) coronation of Laura Jane Grace (formerly Tom Gabel) as our first transgendered rock star. Silveira–whose band the Cliks were signed to Tommy Boy Records–has Grace beat by years. But with a single exception–Chaz Bono–media outlets are so unsure of what to think about transmen that they tend to simply ignore them altogether. Look at this Forbes piece that discusses Grace’s bravery, listing only MtF rockers as her precursors:
Gabel isn’t the first transgender pop musician, or even the first musician in recent memory to come out as transgender: New Orleans‘ bounce scene has recently gained plenty of exposure thanks to a number of artists–Big Freedia, Sissy Nobby, Katey Red–that identify as transgender. But those artists aren’t nearly as popular as Gabel: Gabel’s band, Against Me!, has released music through Sire Records, a label in the Warner Brothers empire; it’s an act that’s landed on the Billboard 200 with arena-sized punk tunes; it’s a group that has played those songs in arena-sized venues.
But I digress. The point here is Silveira’s slinky, kinky, sexy album, which–in case you haven’t been paying attention to the changes in Silveira’s body and voice–slides right up and announces where things stand from the very beginning: I’m your man.
“Mockingbird” is a cover album (with two original songs penned by Silveira, about which more below) that uses that label to play with gender and sex. Silveira has chosen songs with lyrics that have him referring, in various ways, to his own penis:
- “She find pictures in my email / I sent this bitch a picture of my dick / I don’t know what it is with females / But I’m not too good with that shit” (Kanye West’s “Runaway”)
- “The dark of the alley, the breaking of day / The head while I’m driving, I’m driving / Soft lips are open, knuckles are pale” (Kings of Leon’s “Sex on Fire”)
- “I’m talkin’ big boy rides / And big boy ice / Let me put this big boy in yo life / The thang get so wet, it hit so right / Let me put this big boy in yo life” (TI’s “Whatever You Like”)
Or–smooshed into the middle of an unabashedly queer song, embraced unabashedly by many factions of the queer community–to someone else’s penis:
- “I want your psycho / Your vertigo stick / Want you in my rear window / Baby you’re sick” (Lady GaGa’s “Bad Romance”)
Then there’s that opening song, “I’m Your Man.” It’s the utterance of a man who is so utterly lost in passion for another that he will do anything she asks–whatever it is she wants, he assures her, “I’m your man.”
If you know anything about Silveira’s personal trajectory, it becomes impossible to listen to this album without thinking about gender and gender identity. This is compounded by the fact that so many of the songs he’s chosen are the kind that might make a feminist or queer activist wrinkle hir nose in revulsion. But that’s gender play, gender politics, at their most delightful: Impossible to label, impossible to grasp. “Mockingbird” is simultaneously genderqueer and heteronormative, simultaneously sexy, heterosexist, and sex-not-otherwise-specified.
But of course a healthy dose of (gender)queerness and sexplay isn’t the only reason you should give this sweet little album a listen. Silveira doesn’t just cover a song; he claims it. Take a look, for example, at what he does with Kanye West’s “Runaway.” West’s version first, then Silveira’s:
And here’s Kings of Leon’s “Sex on Fire,” their version first, followed by Silveira’s:
And then there’s the matter of those two original songs, “Forever Again” and “Mockingbird.” In line with the sound of the rest of the album, both songs are spare and slow, and both showcase Silveira’s thin, strong voice.”Forever Again” is a bitter song about a failed love affair:
Heart please don’t break so hard
I can feel my delusion coming back to the top
She can’t save me now
She’s got different eyes inside
She can’t save me now
I forgot to be the prize
“Mockingbird” takes Silveira’s voice back up into his-pre-T register, this time a little less comfortably. This final, title song starts with the acoustic sound of the previous 7 songs but falls suddenly into the hard electric sounds–drums and electric guitar–that were part of the Cliks’ repertoire. And that’s how it ends: Suddenly, inside of a new sound that is neither the Cliks nor the acoustic, solo Silveira. It’s a nice teaser for the next project, a brand-new album from a reconfigured version of the Cliks.
The previous iteration of the band had an androgynous–but definitely female-bodied–lead singer backed by androgynous–and definitely female-bodied–musicians; this new version features a masculine-bodied Silveira backed by male-bodied musicians. What that album will sound like is anybody’s guess, but one thing’s for certain: It won’t be anything like anything we’ve heard so far.