Rose McGowan RM486 The ’90s were a good decade for alt-rock starlets dripping with rage and grouchy cool, an era where Fairuza Balk and Janeane Garofalo could headline studio movies and nobody would bat an eyelid. Among them was Rose McGowan, a black-haired, red-lipped vixen bridging the gap between pouty teen and Hollywood glam. She bared her butt on the MTV red carpet, dated Marilyn Manson, and her offbeat movie roles secured her position as film’s go-to bad girl. Who else would gleefully get slaughtered in a doggy door in Scream, or strut down a high school corridor in Jawbreaker after accidentally killing the prom queen by stuffing candy down her throat?
But the Bush years weren’t as kind to McGowan, film work drying up and jiggle-heavy televison coming a-calling – playing a romantically-challenged witch for five years and infinite, round-the-clock repeats on Living TV. By the time she was posing butt-to-butt with Rosario Dawson on the cover of Rolling Stone in 2007, she had become a part of the culturally white-washed, and it all got a little trite. Until 2014, when things started getting interesting again.
McGowan’s directorial debut Dawn, a candy-coloured horror short (horror more in terms of the word than in terms of the genre), got into Sundance, and her soundbites grew suddenly anarchic – gone were any attempts at commercial blandness, or propagating the survival of an establishment driven by superhero nerd-bait and misogynist Adam Sandler vehicles. She quit acting, got dumped by her agents, and went rogue.
This week saw her take another sharp left-turn, delivering a surprise music video called RM486, produced by Parisian electro group Punishment. Opening with a soft narration lifted from Blade Runner over a swooning piano bass, RM486 quickly shifts gear into a kind of forgotten Ladytron cut, McGowan singing in static, hazy bliss repetitive declarations that she’s only here “to paint colour on the sun.” The lyrics push and pull – “letting go is hard to do”, she confesses over the top of a propulsive synth line that needles its way towards an airy climax of romantic clarity. There’s a dollop of Vulnicura to the visuals, too – all loud dressing-up box indulgence as McGowan morphs between past incarnations, among them a nude blank slate, a goth princess, and the paint-splattered rebel of today.
RM486 is an intriguing first step into alt-pop hyper-reality, with a woman screaming to break out of an Aaron Spelling-approved boob-tube and into an artistic field that has all been snuffed out in the world she once called home. Rose McGowan seems to have found her place.