Graded on a Curve: Diamanda Galás,
Vena Cava

What to make of a woman who makes Yoko Ono sound like Janis Ian?

I’m referring, of course, to Diamanda Galás, who can certainly sing but on 1993’s Vena Cava prefers to shriek, screech, scream, keen, warble, jabber, ululate, moan, hiss, speak in tongues and sing “In Heaven There Is No Beer.” I suppose we’re meant to think she’s in the throes of demonic possession, and that “In Heaven There is No Beer” almost convinces me. Had she tossed in “How Many Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” I’d be a believer.

After consulting my Ouija board I think it safe to call Galás the most pretentious avant garde artist of our time, and kindly suggest that anyone who takes her cheesy Linda Blair act seriously invest in a new pentagram. If this is what Satan really sounds like, I suggest he rethink his approach. He certainly isn’t going to win any converts by annoying the fuck out of them.

I’m sure the songs on this concept album are meant to convey a message of deep artistic import, but I for one lack both the curiosity and aural fortitude to figure out what that message is, unless it be to turn it off and listen to something else. In 1993 the FBI used dying rabbit screams to drive David Koresh’s followers from the Branch Davidian compound. It didn’t work. Vena Cava would have worked. Say what you will about the album, it might have saved lives.

Our cherished First Amendment guarantees Galás the right to do this sort of thing, but I for one would prefer she do it in the privacy of her shower, and pray the landlord doesn’t evict her for scaring bejesus out of the Chihuahua in Apartment 8-D.  The only analogy to Galás I can think of is the free jazz quartet Last Exit. But theirs was a noble endeavor to stretch the limitations of jazz. Galás’ Exorcist shtick, on the other hand, is pure hokum. When I want to hear from Satan I listen to Barry White. His modus operandi is seduction–all Galás succeeds in doing is clearing the room.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
F

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