On a Mi(ssion)


By Adam Rathe

Cody Critcheloe has a high-concept, queer art project with a beat.

Although he still returns to Missouri to work, Critcheloe and his hyper-queer, alternative output has been embraced by New York; his live shows are see-and-be-seen events, and he’s been commissioned by the edgy local arts group Creative Time to work on a forthcoming video project for MTV.

Critcheloe started out making music influenced by the No Wave scene and cites ’90s rock groups, like Hole and Sleater-Kinney, as having a huge effect on him. While he retains the spirit of more underground music, making tracks with radio-friendly production and a seditious ethos proved a compelling challenge.

“Pop music was sort of an accident,” he says, “and it’s harder; [writing] something that’s hooky or connects with people is a much different experience.”

The songs are indeed poppy. Cuts like “My Love Grows in the Dark” and “Psy-chic” are easy to imagine as dance-floor fireworks -- and at some art-school-adjacent gay bars, they are -- drawing on funk, house music, and R&B to create a high-energy whirlwind of sound. And while this is performance art with a candy coating, the political agenda -- mostly in the form of provocative, sexualized lyrics -- isn’t so overt or weighted that enjoying the songs for themselves makes the listener a rube.

Bent features 10 songs from an album of the same name released online last year, with a dozen remixes and three brand-new tracks. While Critcheloe is working on videos for the songs on the album and plans to tour heavily for it, he’s already itching to move on to the next phase of Ssion.

“I’ve started writing songs for another record, but I have no idea what it is I want to do,” he says. “For Bent, I had really concrete ideas of what I wanted to do, but now I need to abandon that entirely.

“I don’t want to ever feel like I have to stick to something that everyone’s familiar with. The last show we played, we didn’t do video stuff and it was liberating -- but it was because the projector was broken.”

Bent (Dovecote Records) comes out August 17.

Tags: Music