Scott Thompson and Paul Bellini of queercore band Mouth Congress (and the Kids in the Hall)
Scott Thompson and Paul Bellini of Mouth Congress (and the Kids in the Hall) Credit: Courtesy the artist

As the far right wages war on women and transgender people, attacking their civil rights and access to reproductive healthcare—to the extent that Roe v. Wade could be overturned between my writing this sentence and your reading it—very little of what’s making the news feels empowering, much less joyful. So the new video for “The People Have Spoken,” from 1980s Canadian queercore band Mouth Congress, couldn’t be more welcome. 

Mouth Congress was fronted by Scott Thompson of Canadian comedy troupe the Kids in the Hall and writer Paul Bellini, an early member of the troupe who later contributed material to their TV show. Bellini also starred in the occasional sketch, including the Touch Paul Bellini contest, in which a Florida woman won the “prize” of poking him with a stick while he stood there looking nonplussed in his signature outfit: a white terry-cloth towel wrapped around his waist.

The two of them started the band in 1984, reputedly on a dare, and took their name from the phrase Sir Richard Francis Burton used for “oral sex” is his translation of the Kama Sutra. Over the next few years Mouth Congress became known for their gritty, theatrical punk shows, which were often fully scripted, complete with costume changes. They also made hundreds of DIY recordings (mostly on a Tascam four-track) and a studio demo of material that focused on themes of queer identity and sexuality and paraded the band’s love of strange characters.

After the Kids in the Hall landed a television deal in 1988, the demands of the show pushed Mouth Congress to the back burner. Various lineups continued making the occasional recording till the late 90s, though, and Thompson, Bellini, and their bandmates never forgot the project: In 2011, they began making a “documentary” about the group, which finally debuted in spring 2021 at a virtual edition of the Kingston Canadian Film Festival. Since 2015 they’ve been uploading archival material to Bandcamp, and in 2016 they reunited for a one-off reunion show that they’ve also put out as a live album. Finally, in December, Mouth Congress will have their first physical album release, a 29-song two-album retrospective compilation called Waiting for Henry (Captured Tracks). 

Waiting for Henry will be released on December 10.

The lead single from the compilation, “The People Have Spoken,” combines punk and dance grooves in a fiery, funky mix. The song was inspired by violence and threats throughout the 80s toward a network of Canadian reproductive-health clinics spearheaded by Holocaust survivor and abortion-rights advocate Dr. Henry Morgentaler. One of the clinics and a nearby women’s bookstore were firebombed in 1992. 

Though it was written more than three decades ago, “The People Have Spoken” is still infuriatingly relevant today. Its new music video edits together footage from a 1986 Mouth Congress show and a pro-choice rally from around the same time, underscoring the rebellion and catharsis in the band’s calls for bodily autonomy (“Get off my back, you fascist lout / I say what goes in or out”) and freedom from tyranny and hate (“No more patriarchy, no more shit / Racist, sexist, anti-gay / Born-again bigots go away”). The future may look grim, but Mouth Congress have brought us a time-tested rallying cry.

Paul Bellini edited the new video for “The People Have Spoken”; he and Scott Thompson wrote the lyrics, and their bandmates Rob Rowatt and Brian Hiltz wrote the music.

The Listener is a weekly sampling of music Reader staffers love. Absolutely anything goes, and you can reach us at thelistener@chicagoreader.com.