There’s this scene in Purple Rain (1984) when Prince’s love interest, Apollonia, is in his basement bedroom and switches on the tape player. A warped and lethargic drum beat echoes against what sounds like a woman moaning or crying.
“So who’s the lucky girl?” Apollonia asks with a touch of jealousy. “She sounds like she’s having a good time.”
“She’s crying, it’s backwards.” Prince’s character (billed as ‘The Kid’) replies in his apathetic, perhaps arrogant, sly tone. “It sort of makes me sad when I hear it. It sounds like she’s laughing, doesn’t it?”
When seeing East Coast band, Boy Harsher, perform at Larimer Lounge with The Soft Moon this past weekend, this scene came to my mind. The light design is aptly dark, with only a few spotlights swiftly passing by Jae Matthews and Augustus Muller on stage; in fact, much of the light came from the flashlight Matthews’ held in her own hand. Maybe it’s the dark and gritty 80s dance beats that pervade their music or maybe it’s the combination of sorrow and joy in both of these songs that made me think of Purple Rain.
Boy Harsher’s music falls somewhere between foreboding and infectious; with Matthews’ contralto, vampiric vocals, and Muller hovering among the complicated mass of machinery in front of him, producing heavy synths and industrial bass lines, I wouldn’t be surprised hearing their music in a BDSM club. There was an element of raw emotion in their performance that night and within that scene from Purple Rain. It is one of those things that sticks out in your memory, like a splinter in your brain, as something so beautifully heartbreaking. You’re not quite so sure why it makes you happy, but you’re not quite so sure why it makes you sad.
The woman on the tape that Apollonia plays in The Kid’s bedroom is of a former lover (who appears briefly in the film, she’s the waitress), when played in it’s correct format you can hear her say, “It’s not alright, I don’t want to go to hell… I want to go to heaven.”