From The Desk Of Kristian Hoffman: Fop For Pop!

Kristian Hoffman and Lance Loud met in high school back in the early ’70s in Santa Barbara, Calif. After starring in PBS cinéma-vérité documentary An American Family, they formed the Mumps, moved to New York and shared Max’s and CBGB stages with all the legends of the punk/new-wave explosion of 1976: Television, the Ramones, Talking Heads and Blondie. Hoffman and Loud also had front-row seats for the Mercer Arts Center incubation of the New York Dolls, before that. In our book, that grants you unlimited license to open the floodgates. Fop (Kayo), Hoffman’s latest solo album, is an ornate masterpiece of baroque pop, well worth your attention. Hoffman will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Q&A with him.

Hoffman: It’s one of the themes of my album Fop that when a culture becomes so regimented and homogenized as ours is today, so dark in spirit and outlook, then surface indeed becomes substance, since depth is equated with fear. When there is fear of intellect, science and art, then you can’t expect people to respond to depth, unless shocked into it by brilliance or seduced into it like a Venus Flytrap. When aspiration and vision is so small and closed, it’s hard to get someone to look up to the gleaming spire; you’ve got to wow them at ground level, and then perhaps they may turn their eyes heavenward toward a broader vision.

So if our comportment through this dark society is our only canvas—and we must indeed become billboards for our ideals—then it is the duty of the revolutionary to use that canvas as a declaration, a coat of arms. You can see this in the dress of Lady Gaga, whose provocative fashion dabbling draws from Dada through Dali to Situationism and even Elton John. Unfortunately, in her case, the invitation is sometimes more interesting than the party itself! But she seems a modern master of declarative affectation.

I would hope that in a less reductive era, flamboyance would be a matter of course, and it would be nothing to see a flock of variously attired peacocks sashaying down a Belle Époque boulevard, gaudy as Gaudi! It once seemed possible, especially when Broadway made an institution out of Hair and these words from the song “My Conviction”: “There is a peculiar notion that elegant plumage/And fine feathers are not proper for the male/When actually, that is the way things are/In most species.”

And, of course, these lyrics had been supported by the outfits from the inner foldout of the Sgt Pepper sleeve that inspired the Edwardian-revival finery that was paraded through the streets of London and Haight-Ashbury, before the horrific rustication and the deplorable ethos of “getting real” turned us all brown and beige circa 1971.

The other recurring theme of Fop is the notion of the dandy—which in common use is a pejorative word for someone thought of as insipidly fashion-obsessed and dissolutely superficial, lacking in either integrity or soul, and utterly dispensable—which is the same way many people thought of gays, and many continue to do so.

I wanted to reclaim that word “dandy” and the word “fop” and make them stand for what they really mean: taking an aggressive, resolute stand to practice assaultive, brazen beauty and opulence in demeanor, culture and action in the face of likely ridicule, ostracism and even violence.

And, as a social metaphor for dismissing gays and their rights as inconsequential, “foppism” (or, better, foppity?) can, like a blinding mirror, reflect that very prejudice back into the eyes of the squinting crowds. Coming out as one’s own “art” is a delightfully sensual bedfellow (i.e., an easy lay) for coming out as one’s own “sexual persona.” Throughout the recent decades of my life, “coming out” in favor of radically resplendent, overdressed beauty in music and art and attire was considered just as disgustingly aberrant as “coming out” as gay. The “dandy” or “fop” loves to “come out” … to come out and play! Dear Prudence, we hardly knew ye!

So the cover and music of Fop have been deliberately overdressed, over seasoned, splashed with whatever exotic aromatics I could muster and freighted with whatever depth of lyric I could attain. When I was in Prague, I visited the one-fifth scale reproduction of the Eiffel Tower they have in their Petřín Park and noted that they had decided to festoon their version with a filigree of fanciful wrought-iron curlicues that rendered the original practically austere! Yes, more is more, and when you dare to aspire to more, you have access to a palette of dynamic and color and range not available to those who regard minimalism as a measure of merit.

So “Fop As Pop” is a battle for brilliance—the right to glitz. Of course, into this battle comes the fact that not all your compatriots will share one’s specifically rarified and researched taste! Hence, for example, Adam Lambert’s admirable but somewhat clueless inroads into this arena might be thought a trifle earthbound to some: cumbersome reiterations of tired goth and S&M tropes, with a lot of reliance on the singularly timid preponderance of the non-color known has “black,” better known as “absence of light.” Isn’t it better to light up the room when one is making a declaration of “affect” as “art”?

But in reality, if the boulevard of society were truly a vari-colored peacock paradise, there would be room for black, brown and even beige as well. Adam’s touch may not be so deft as Gaga’s, but he’s a welcome soldier in the battle toward reclaiming costume as creed, the invitation for the huddled masses yearning to breathe in chartreuse and magenta to look beyond the costume and scrutinize the “will to beauty” within. That’s why I also adored Boston’s Upper Crust, although their AC/DC-redux, lite-metal posturings were hopelessly predictable, if monumentally catchy, Lord Bendover’s foppification was like a graduate thesis! “Let Them Eat Rock,” indeed!

Since I cannot deny the boomer-ism of my roots, my own site-specific “will to beauty” may not be everyone’s, but I’d love to share some of the inspirations that have helped me refine my fop-pop meanderings and readied me for my dalliance with the current Potentate Of Fop Pop, Prince Poppycock, who sang with me on “Soothe Me” and continues to be an inspiration!

More photos after the jump.