parenthetical girls

April 26, 2011

Parenthetical Girls is a Portland-based indie band, which Zac Pennington and Jeremy Cooper initially formed in 2002 as the “Swastika Girls”–a reference to the second of two tracks on Brian Eno and Robert Fripp’s 1973 “(No Pussyfooting),” an album now regarded as a formative, if somewhat overlooked, classic in the development of ambient rock.

As the band’s AllMusic biography puts it, they soon went on to embrace “the less-controversial handle Parenthetical Girls.” Perhaps their renaming can be read as holding on to a trace of the previous reference to the Fripp & Eno record, since the title of that album, pictured above, is in parentheses. And there is a neutrality to “parenthetical” that is certainly missing in the much more historically charged “swastika.”

They released (((GRRRLS))), a (sort of, with a few extra parentheses and Rs) self-titled album in 2006. I would consider this band’s use of parentheses alongside the various other instances of parentheses in non-mainstream–even anti-mainstream–music and media. Like their disorienting and punk use of the word “girls” in a band name with guys (similar to the other popular indie band with boy members, “Girls”), their music and style possess a certain aesthetics of resistance, perhaps most simply suggested by the question the punctuation marks pose of how to read them, or if to read them at all. Even AllMusic’s listing of the band’s first record, for example, lists their first album simply as Parenthetical Girls. The album cover itself has no text, further resisting the easiness of knowing what to call it. The cover, like the music and video posted above, also plays with stylistic simplicity, symmetry, assymetry, and gender difference–a combination which reads as, well, very parenthetical.