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Bent Nights: SSION at the Funky Buddha, Feb. 5
Extended Online Version
by Vern Hester

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We've had so much androgyny for so long in so many varieties that now it's just a bore. Take your pick: from clever/charming ( George O'Dowd ) to sly/sexy ( Annie Lennox in her corporate drag ) to dag ugly ( the current edition of the New York Dolls ) to downright dangerous ( Prince for his blunt lust, Mikey Jackson for where he presumably aims his ) . The 2008 edition landed in downtown Chicago last Tuesday night in two strikingly different flavors. Mika, the latest rage from Europe and Logo, played an SRO show at House of Blues that had been sold out for months. He's got all the tools for pop stardom ( spectacular voice, doe-eyed innocence, floppy locks, brain-corrupting pop tunes ) , comes wrapped in cartoon motifs and ... has an odd sexless vibe.

Where it's hard to picture Mika having sex with anyone ( or even thinking about it ) , Cody Critcheloe of SSION ( pronounced 'shee-on' ) is all about the 'wild thing.' Fresh from their gig at a Detroit gay leather bar, SSION invaded Funky Buddha Lounge's weekly 'Outdanced' with costumes, face paint, movies, art-theater, a crazed barefoot bongo-banging synth lord, a brittle severe-looking woman referred to as 'The Woman', a positively brutal drummer and choreographed whip-thin go-go boys in white spandex. And Critcheloe—a pansexual clown Valentino ( handlebar 'stache, white dinner gloves, beauty mark ) who was all cha-cha, hip slams and wall-to-wall smiles. Regardless of the HIV death march; the Neo-Nazi conservative right and their goofy indiscretions; and the moddish attitude that sex is badbadbad, Critcheloe ignores all that and projects the attitude that sex is goodgoodgood. Where Mika looks like some little man-boy, SSION parties like a bunch of sixth-graders on a Fluffer Nutter bender at Chuck E. Cheese.

SSION's eros is a lot more than flash, though. At one point, 'The Woman' proclaimed with a self-important stone face, 'In the '60s I burned my bra/In the '70s I made it with a chick/In the '80s I made it with another chick/In the '90s I didn't do shit ... Now give me my guitar asshole, I've got a show to do!' What would Susan Sontag say? The song Street Jizz, a straight-up disco pounder with its apocalyptic beat and squealing vocals, was even nuttier as a glib celebration of promiscuous sex ( 'Mom and Dad told me 'boy you gotta watch your back'/But I can only see what's in front of me when I'm on my back...' ) . Naturally, the crowd went apeshit.

But is there a messege? Is SSION art? If yes or no just what is it? Any way you look at it, Critcheloe is the latest in a long line of nancy-men who deliver their message from below the navel ( Little Richard, Prince ) and like the current wave of DIY gay pop stars ( Jules Shears, Ari Gold, Johnny Dangerous ) he does it with a blatantly queer attitude.

And, yes, there is a message. Critcheloe has been working for years on a movie musical epic and the just-released Fool's Gold ( Sleazetone Records ) is a tidy helping. According to Critcheloe, the story ends in 'complete sexual anarchy and the apocalypse.' Well, OK. Never mind that Fool's Gold dosen't seem to have a narrative arc, but why quibble? It's such a cyclone ride of naughty merriment, old school disco/proto-punk 'pow,' and sexual politics that anything as constricting as a plot would spoil the fun. But don't tell THE WOMAN that---she spent the finale of the show reading 'The S.C.U.M. Manifesto.'

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