Listening to Nature Morte this morning. I love Tae Won Yu. He's totally the unsung boy poet hero of riot grrrl. There were a lot of cute girls / stars involved with the riot grrrl phenom (obviously), but the boys were a different thing. Like obviously Calvin Johnson is a sex symbol, I'll do that post another day.
But Tae Won Yu! OMG!
I have a t-shirt I got from buyolympia that Tae designed. It's a picture of a broken heart. He apparently made his friend a mixtape and drew a picture of the friend wearing a broken heart t-shirt on the cover of the cassette and someone said "Hey, you should actually make that shirt". I would love to get a mixtape from Tae Won Yu. Even with a broken heart. I still love that t-shirt.
Kicking Giant have always felt like a sort of "advanced" riot grrl band. Like Mecca Normal or Tattle Tale (all three bands went on a big tour together once). Kicking Giant were not, like, super duper poppy. They weren't really a party band. A little more difficult, and much more rewarding. But gosh. The way Tae sings about love is so sweet. He kind of harmonizes with himself. He's so enthusiastic in his songs. it's the sound of someone yearning or whatever. Really impatient to tell you about how they feel. He can't wait.
Nature Morte (and the other smattering of stuff released as the KG) is so freaky. It's totally dub music. It's kind of like a west coast take on the NYC sound. You know, that kind of mishmashing of jangly new-wave indie guitars and beatboxes.
Also, Tae always sung about New York. The landmarks are there in his songs even after they moved to Olympia. I should start there. Tae Won Yu and Rachel Carns (who would of course later go on to form my favorite band in the world and the closest thing I have to a "spirit guide"-- The Need) met in NYC in the late 80s because they were both students at Cooper Union. Rachel and Tae met in class and thought each other was cool on the first day. The next day Tae showed up to the class wearing a home made t-shirt that read "RACHEL CARNS". How sweet is that? They started their amazing band Kicking Giant after that. I'm not sure if they were lovers or not, but some of their old interviews / quotes seem to imply so. I think Tae Won Yu is straight, actually. I feel like Perfect Little Daniel would know. I wonder sometimes if I had been the same age as them, if I would have liked them. These days I would probably really resent an art-hipster band of Cooper Union students. I generally just resent Cooper kids because they're education is free and I will be paying for mine for the rest of my life and why is that fair? Anyways, I like Kicking Giant now, coming to me as they did travelling the impossible distances of both the 1990s and the entirety of America.
Tae Won Yu is also responsible for the singer-songwriter now known to the world as Liz Phair. Maybe her name was always Liz Phair, though. Anyways, she began making music by sending 4-track demos of her songs to two person in the whole world, and one was Tae, in NYC, who then played them for everyone else. One old Kicking Giant track on a complication, "White Babies", is a song Liz Phair is singing into an answering machine. It's just okay, her first record is much better.
I saw the KG perform, once, at YoYo-A-GoGo 2001. I remember my friend Becky and I were sharing a hotel room with this guy who was OBSESSED with Tae Won Yu, so we got to the show super early. He wore white pants, which I thought was great. Heather Dunn from Tiger Trap played drums. They played really early in the day and I didn't recognize any of the songs. I had only really heard Alien ID and some of the cassettes. I remember finding the "Boyfriend Girlfriend" cassette at Amoeba in San Francisco one rainy day in high school, and I remember that that day I also got all of the old Courtney Love 7"s (not from Hole, obvi, but the Lois band) and I was so so happy. It was foggy and I remember eating a really good burrito and writing in journal about my finds.
His lyrics are so sweet and almost sexy, in that they're kind of scared and brave. "Finally now we're sitting here together listening to records of your favorite songs from 1987 or '8 well can't you see that I can't wait? So fuck the rules and make me yours tonight." And he's a super fox. Whiny, intelligent, angry, and usually has the right idea.
I'm gonna go listen to "She's Real" for the rest of my life, thanks.