Today’s Song: Seth Bogart Reimagines Punk Classic “Oh Bondage! Up Yours!”

Seth Bogart © Alexandra Cabral
Seth Bogart © Alexandra Cabral
On his latest solo album, former Hunx and his Punx frontman Seth Bogart puts a queer spin on an X-Ray Spex favorite.
 follow our Today’s Song(s) playlist

Atwood Magazine Today's Songs logo

Stream: “Oh Bondage! Up Yours!” – Seth Bogart




Men on the Verge of Nothing - Seth Bogart
Men on the Verge of Nothing – Seth Bogart

In a hot, dumpster fire of a year, multifaceted artist and Hunx and His Punx frontman Seth Bogart sums up society’s flaws succinctly: “It’s the same problem we’ve always had and always will… men on the verge of nothing.” Bogart’s third solo album Men on the Verge of Nothing, a play on Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovár’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, is a dialed-down, nostalgic blend of garage rock and jangle pop that takes jabs at misogyny while also reveling in the bittersweetness of memory. Full of intimate reflections on queer history, the AIDs crisis, and gender inequality, his knack for riding the line between somberness and comedy is more nuanced than ever. He also devotes a great deal of the album to celebrating the LGBTQ+ and riot grrrl icons who have shaped him, from Divine to Kathleen Hanna, the latter of whom is just one of the feminist punks who contributed to Men on the Verge. Most prominently, Bogart pays tribute to one of his all-time favorite vocalists, Poly Styrene, with a reworking of her band X-Ray Spex’s quintessential rebel anthem “Oh Bondage! Up Yours!”.

Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard
But I think, “Oh, bondage”
Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard
But I think, “Oh, bondage”
Oh, bondage
Oh, bondage
Oh, bondage, up yours
One, two, three, four

The track opens with a nearly uncanny impression of Styrene’s iconic opening monologue by musician and actor Kate Nash—“because she was one of the only British people I could think of,” Bogart jokes. Although it was appropriate to bring on a female musician to recite these lines in particular, it still feels like a misstep. Without the presence of a Black female vocalist, Bogart’s rendition of “Oh Bondage!” lacks a wider racial perspective. Styrene was the first prominent Black woman in punk, and she frequently contended with her Blackness and biracial identity in her work. While women and gay men share marginalized status, it is important to remember the role that race plays in oppression.

Lyrically, the track is an enduring feminist manifesto, but Nash’s whiteness erases how crucial Styrene’s lived experiences were to its genesis. Slavery’s impact continues to reverberate through capitalistic Western society, which is more apparent than ever as the U.S. experiences a renewed civil rights movement. In this case, remembering the artist and her reasons for creating is vital to reconstructing the importance of the meaning she made—especially since Black women’s contributions in every sector of society are so often forgotten. It would have been especially powerful to explore “Oh Bondage!” through a contemporary Black femme lens, as well as uplift a Black indie musician’s talents in the process. In terms of Bogart’s attempts to address forgotten history on this record, this cover contains missed opportunities.

Bind me, tie me, chain me to the wall
I wanna be a slave to you all
Oh, bondage (Oh, bondage)
Chain-store chain-smoke, I consume you all
Chain-gang chainmail, I don’t think at all
Oh, bondage (Oh, bondage)

With a multimedia career full of gay BDSM motifs and Tom of Finland-inspired imagery, it makes sense why Bogart is drawn to explore bondage’s intricate connections between pain, oppression, and pleasure within the confines of this song. In contrast to Styrene’s urgent belting and impassioned wailings, he puts his own horny spin on “Oh Bondage!” with lolling, flirtatious vocals, as he is wont to do. In this context, Bogart’s affinity for leather daddy aesthetics and haphazard camp bring its queer undertone to the foreground. For some marginalized folks, BDSM can serve as a reclamation of agency, an ironic liberation. A kinkiness that is queer in the sense that it isn’t socially acceptable, sex within this realm allows power exchanges and control to occur in a safe space—as play, some would say. This conservative, societal fear of unconventional sex parallels homophobia’s confines. It brings Almodovár to mind again—while his colorful 1989 Stockholm syndrome rom-com Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! explores forbidden sex and love in a different capacity, Bogart’s appreciation of his work makes perfect sense.

Thrash me, crush me, trash me, beat me ’til I fall (Oh, bondage)
Bind me, tie me, bind me, chain me to the wall (Oh, bondage)

Those familiar with Bogart’s discography are accustomed to his girl group-inspired, gay heartbreak songs. However, gay love doesn’t always have to have a tragic ending. This upbeat rendition stays true to Bogart’s DIY production value in all of its lo-fi glory, but adopts a much more carefree, dreamy sound. Transforming “Oh Bondage!” into a perfect guitar pop song, he peels back its layers to reshape it into a carefree anthem of gay rebellion, pride, and liberation. Under Bogart’s care, it takes on a lower-stakes euphoria at a much more nostalgic tempo, with all the playfulness and cheerful sarcasm of his usual fare. He takes the word “punk” from its inception as a derogatory term for gay men in prison and reclaims both its filthiness and beauty.

Bind me, tie me, chain me to the wall
Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard
But I think
I wanna be a victim
I wanna be a victim for you all
(Oh, bondage, up yours)
Bind me, tie me, chain me to the wall

What makes Bogart’s cover of “Oh Bondage! Up Yours” so special is the love with which it is crafted. He salutes Styrene’s undying legacy and underrated talents as a celebration of not only her life, but the fighting spirit her work has inspired in fellow outcasts for decades. Bogart infuses the song with the meaning he found in it growing up as a gay teen and young feminist, as well as the joy it evokes in him as an adult. As Styrene was a trailblazer for Black women in punk, this would have been an ideal opportunity to amplify the voices of living Black punks. Despite this, breathing new life into such an influential piece will hopefully introduce new generations of misfits to Styrene’s genius. As the album title suggest, Bogart isn’t looking to break ground here—that’s not to say, however, that he isn’t onto something.

Men on the Verge of Nothing is out now via Sister Polygon Records. Bogart also recently teased a soon-to-be-released collaboration that will benefit an upcoming documentary on Poly Styrene’s life Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché.



— — — —

Connect to Seth Bogart on
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Discover new music on Atwood Magazine
📸 © Alexandra Cabral


:: Today’s Song(s) ::

Atwood Magazine Today's Songs logo

 follow our daily playlist on Spotify



:: Stream Seth Bogart ::

Men on the Verge of Nothing

an album by Seth Bogart


More from Sophie Prettyman-Beauchamp

Review: Okay Kaya Redefines Bedroom Pop on ‘Watch This Liquid Pour Itself’

Released a year ago, New York-by-way-of-Norway model, actress, and musician Kaya Wilkins’...
Read More