Skip to content

Lydia Lunch – Willing Victim

Lydia Lunch

Lydia Lunch-Willing Victim (Music Video Distributors/Atavistic)

I was trying to explain Lydia Lunch to a friend, whose musical tastes run far more toward the mainstream, who called me while I was watching this DVD. He asked what type of music it was, and I said, “It’s hard to explain.”

“Is it like Bjork or something?” he wanted to know.

“No,” I replied, then thought about it, “Well, sorta.”

Lydia’s certainly no icelandic elfin princess of cute–you’d never hear “It’s Oh So Quiet” coming from her. But what she is, is hard to categorize, and willing to push the boundaries of the music we expect. Starting with Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, and running up to the band she plays with in this concert DVD, Willing Victim, she’s made the cliched term unconventional a reality.

All of that said, it made me sad that this DVD wasn’t better. The sound quality isn’t great–her vocals are too low in the mix to really show up, which is a shame since it’s a Lydia Lunch DVD and we’re not really here just to see what kind of horrible noises her backup band can coax out of their instruments. The picture isn’t much better. High contrast has washed most of the color out, and the over- and underlying scenes from the videos that simultaneously play behind the band start out as interesting, but end up growing more and more complicated until they distract from everything. Curvy-sexy Lydia doesn’t look her best in a faux-mullet cut and a lace-trimmed shirt, but she knows how to use those hips to maximum effect even when her lyrics promise to tear your throat out rather than cause pleasure. She waves a fan less like a spanish dancer than like she can’t stand the smell of her audience.

She’s got a way of going from a bedroom whispered rasp to a piercing scream, an atonal howl that doesn’t so much need words to penetrate your skin. A particularly stirring moment comes during “Psychic Anthropology,” where her moaning “lovemybodylovemybodylovemybody” grows to a frenzied peak, both a self-assured statement of fact and a desperate cry for someone to do so. Lydia seems to sell sex, but the promise of sex she offers is laced with poison–she’d probably bite your head off when she was finished with you, but for all that you’d enjoy the ride.

This DVD is subtitled “audience as whipping boy” so I expected more of the audience-abuse I’ve heard during her spoken word performances. Instead, she barely addresses them directly, but her art is a more literal form of catharsis than most, and you don’t sit down to listen to Lydia to bob your head and enjoy the ride. You get into it to hear what she has to say, to let her have control and have her way with you. I just think this video could’ve done a better job of showing her off. She’s far too complex an artist to have digitally-added bugs crawling across the screen while she’s playing.


Sign up to our newsletter and get updates to your mailbox