I got up to take my leave on a press tour the one time I met MELORA CREAGER (born 1966) and found the door to the bare and anonymous record-company conference room locked from the inside. Creager, habitually corseted on-stage and cultivating the look of a Victorian consumptive even out of character, had joked earlier about the rumors she was an actual vampire like the ones she sang about in her band Rasputina’s first hit, “Transylvanian Concubine.” “This won’t help the rumors any,” I remarked as I jiggled the locked doorknob. Assuming a hollow, twin-ghosts-from-The Shining expression, Creager reached beneath the desk and, abruptly drawing up a handbag, ominously said, “I do have these… AMWAY products to show you…!” Clearly something had scared her for life in the suburban consumer Midwest she came from, and the charm to ward it off was to retreat into the haunted houses of Victorian chic and a time when we trusted to spirit mediums and vials of patent hallucinogens. Everything old goes on sale again, and Creager resorts to a commercial undeath that satirized the trendy 1990s in which Rasputina first emerged while being endlessly resourceful and quintessentially new. The mad musical inventiveness with which she composes for her ensemble’s unfashionable cellos is the unquiet, wandering spirit of the freshly possible; the gallows laugh-riot of her takes on antique gender relations and crackpot science a marker for how far we’ve come, straight down, and the clear heights we could choose to look up to.
On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Rudolf Rocker, Gloria Steinem, Cecil Taylor, Flannery O’Conner, David Lean, Frances Glessner Lee.
READ MORE about members of the Reconstructionist Generation (1964–73).