Exposed breasts usually make my heart beat a little faster in a good, sexy sort of way. But when Susanne Oberbeck, front-woman of post- No Wave- techno band, No Bra, takes off her top, letting her frizzy red hair dangle past her puss and slightly cover her chest, my heart beats faster in a nervous sort of way.
It's not that the lady is bad looking, it's the music that inspires and therefore accompanies her shirt removal-- industrial, tortured, plunky notes that sulk behind a low, groaning voice. No Bra's music takes you straight out of your warm desk chair and places you in a dark alley... at 3 a.m...in East Oakland.
No Bra started up in 2003, after Oberbeck moved from her hometown in Germany, to London and then to New York. Her vocals come delivered in a deadpan spoken-word style over cracked-out, murky percussion, electric guitar strums and other combinations of mildew-covered sounds. The old-style German folk slowly churns below Oberbeck, playing the soundtrack to what could be a really rad horror movie from the '30s. The lyrics about syphilis and anal-sex come off like secrets whispered by elderly, possibly senile men. Oberbeck has called her tracks "romantic."
Oberbeck's intentions for singing minus brasserie seem aimed at disbanding gender norms and besides taking things off, she also puts on a fake mustache every once and awhile. (I'm guessing all of this reflects on her childhood in Germany, where Oberbeck has said she was mistaken for a boy until she was into her late teens).
Even though No Bra totally creeps me out, I do think there's something really wonderful and provoking about the music-- Oberbeck's physical nakedness pairs well with the exposed and disturbing musical content. I find its aloofness oddly compelling.
The latest No Bra single, "Minger/New Hero", came out in February, with remixes by TV Baby and These New Puritans. Unfortunately, her and her eerie tit show are not touring to San Francisco any time soon...