Release Date: Feb 18, 2014
Record label: Forced Exposure
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock
Over a shimmering synthesiser, the voice of Jam Rostron floats. Less modulated than we've heard before, perhaps an attempt to emphasise the artist's belief and conviction in their words. The message, powerful - yet beautifully simple - is one that many of us can agree with. "Fall in love with whoever you want to." The phrase is repeated several times, meaning there is no chance of missing the message, or interpreting it in any way other than what was intended by Planningtorock.
Using facial prosthetics, androgynous vocals and leftfield electronics to make her point, Berlin-based Jam (formerly Janine) Rostron is on a mission to question traditional notions of gender and sexuality. You may not completely agree with everything she has to say, and as titles like "Misogyny Drop Dead" and "Beyond Binary Binds" suggest, her arguments are advanced to the level of catchy, critical theory sloganeering. But she is nonetheless an exhilarating presence, both musically and politically.All Love's Legal is more direct and pop-oriented than Planningtorock's last album, W.
Expanding upon the themes presented on 2013's Misogyny Drop Dead EP, Planningtorock (aka UK-via-Berlin artist Jam Rostron) presents All Love's Legal. One thing that's immediately apparent is that despite the serious topics being discussed here — issues of trans awareness, sexual tolerance and gender equality for starters —the album is foremost bright and optimistic in tone, consciously avoiding angry polemic in favour of judicious repetition of succinct phrases delivered as positive affirmations. Rostron adds power to simple phrases such as "Fall in love with whoever you want to," "You can't illegalise [sic] love" and "Gender's just a lie.
Planningtorock's message of gender equality and sexual freedom on All Love's Legal seems simplistic and dated at first. But in 2014, the simplest messages are often the most urgent ones. Western media coverage of the Sochi Oympics has brought attention to Russian anti-gay violence and legislation. But we're also sharing a planet with at least five countries where even vaguely defined homosexual behavior is worthy of the death penalty.
Planningtorock's music has always had an empowering streak: Have It All was a journey of self-discovery and creative rebirth, while W explored the potential conflicts between love and self. All Love's Legal expands on these concerns as well as the prominence of LGBT rights in the 2010s, resulting in songs that embrace love and reject traditional gender roles. Prior to the album's release, Planningtorock's leader adopted the androgynous name Jam Rostron, reflecting how passionately she cares about the subject.
The name Planningtorock may conjure up images of fist-pumping metalheads ready to get their air-guitar on, but the reality is very different. In fact, the Planningtorock is the pseudonym of Jam Rostron, formerly Janine Rostron of Bolton who changed her name and moved to Berlin. Her third album, All Love’s Legal, is full of that city’s influence – dark, shimmering dance music with a cerebral edge.
Planningtorock, who’s from Bolton originally and is now named Jam Rostron (changing her name from the gender-specific Janine), is part of a gender-bending, playfully political artistic heritage that includes fellow Berlin-based artists Peaches and Chicks On Speed as well as Lady Gaga, kd lang, Annie Lennox, Sylvester, Grace Jones and Bowie. Plays on sexuality are nothing new in pop, but the politics of gender are seldom confronted as directly as they are on Rostron’s third album, ‘All Love’s Legal’. The title is a giveaway, as are songs with names such as ‘Misogyny Drop Dead’ and ‘Patriarchy Over & Out’.
"You can't illegalise love," is the rallying cry of Planningtorock's third album, a record about gender and the queer, black roots of dance music. With song titles such as Beyond Binary Binds, it would sound like a cultural studies dissertation, if it weren't all couched in surprisingly banging tunes such as Public Love. Even her more cerebral deconstructed house tracks – Misogyny Drop Dead, say – are not a million miles from Gang Gang Dance.
Following a summer of touring for her second studio album, W, Janine Rostron, the singer, producer, and multimedia polymath behind Planningtorock, legally changed her first name to Jam. The choice to have a non-gender-specific name surely comes across as fitting for those familiar with Planningtorock’s deliberately androgynous vocals and outspoken views on gender and identity politics. Of course, political performance was not the force behind W‘s universal acclaim.
Formerly known as Janine Rostron, the woman behind Berlin project Planningtorock has changed her name to the less gender-specific Jam Rostron for her third album. The constant ambiguity of All Love’s Legal is a true testament to gender equality. Even the low register of her voice eschews both the masculine and feminine.
The first words you hear on Bolton born, Berlin residing Jam Rostron’s third album as Planningtorock are “Fall in love with whoever you want to” over a shimmering synth riff, the tone of which rises only once. It’s a simple and clear message and a topic revisited throughout All Love’s Legal. Sitting alongside the angry vagina-pop of Peaches or the agit-electro of The Knife, Rostron’s music is derived from the same 4/4 beat of dance music but with an avant-garde re-think.
Planningtorock - the solo project of Bolton-born, Berlin-based Jam (formerly Janine) Rostron - has long been dogged by comparisons to the work of her friends and collaborators The Knife. These haven't always been accurate or fair; contra Pitchfork, I can't see all that much in common between the musical exuberance and mad funfair atmosphere of Planningtorock's 2006 debut Have It All and The Knife's taut, dark techno masterpiece of the same year, Silent Shout. Yet as her career has progressed, Rostron seems to have acquiesced to those comparisons.
opinion by SAMUEL TOLZMANN Critic David Halperin has argued that Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” will not attain anthemic immortality within gay culture because it’s actually too gay; the most enduring pieces of gay culture, Halperin says, are the ones that require the audience to read in between the lines for the queer subtext, and therein lies much of the pleasure and power of appropriation. “Born This Way” might have a positive queer-friendly message (debatable), but it’s as shallow, boring, and un-queer as pop gets. There is no subtext, only surface.