I’m callin’ 9-1-1 for emergency
Sally’s on the loose, it’s a DEFCON 3
Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines
Somebody stop this curse of Eve
So sang Cats In Boots on ‘Shot Gun Sally’, the kick ass opener on their 1989 album Kicked and Klawed. Its’ message about the alleged ills of PMS entirely lost on me, until I looked up the lyrics 10 minutes ago – I just thought it was another song about one of them hard lovin’, ass kickin’, robustly bustaceous chicks, I kept hearing about and who bore absolutely no relation to the girls I actually knew – clearly their fault, not the sleazy Hollywood hair metal myth peddlers. But no, a good scan of the lyrics shows me that it is in fact about one of them hard lovin’, ass kickin’, robustly bustaceous chicks, who shoots stuff because of her, you know, happenings. Regardless of the fact that its’ original* message was lost on me I loved this track, it was loud, brash and a bit rawer and louder than a lot of the competition at the time.
I bought Kicked and Klawed for myself on my 18th birthday, as an expensive import copy – it has one of those irritating Satan Sleeves (as I call ’em), you know one of those confounded polythene inner bags, rather than a good old-fashioned paper ones. American LPs seemed to favour them at one point. One slip of the vinyl though and it was impossible to get the crumpled MF to lie flat ever again! For a man afflicted with a collector’s obsession such as mine, this is nothing short of an eternity being tortured by Beelzebub and all his hellishly inventive minions. Word up.
Cats in Boots were a part-US, part-Japanese outfit featuring:
Joel Ellis – lead vocals and harmonica
Takashi “Jam” O’Hashi – guitar and background vocals
Yasuhiro “Butch” Hatae – bass and background vocals
Randy Meers – drums and background vocals
Obviously a cynical man might say that this was a calculated record company ploy to cash in on two big metal markets simultaneously, but I’m sure there’s a perfectly innocent explanation out there. Although I have to say that in the interests of racial balance I feel that Joel and Randy should have Japanese nicknames too, just like ‘Butch’ and ‘Jam’ do. I’d also point out that, that’s a whole damn lot of backing vocals.
I’d liken the sound of Cats in Boots to a souped-up Mötley Crüe, a bit like Spread Eagle (if any of you dudes remember them?) now I’m not a big Crüe fan but Kicked and Klawed sounds bigger and punchier to me than most of their efforts and a darn sight better for it. The whole LP is given a great RAWK production by Mark Ortiz, natural and clean without ever sounding processed or tinny. Tracks like ‘Her Monkey’ benefit hugely as a result, Joel Ellis has a great rock voice, he can screech, do that almost-talking nasally thing and generally bet out these tunes with, you sense, power to spare, in fact this is great, brash rock. There are lots of bits where the music drops out dramatically and some excellent hammered-on riffs. Okay so we sail a bit too close to the good ship Aerosmith on the likes of ‘Whip It Out’ and ‘Nine Lives (Save Me)’, but filtered through a bit more West Coast spandex and without the swaggering looseness you need to truly nail that style; you get the impression that these guys would die rather than hit a loose note.
The likes of the goofy ‘Coast to Coast’ (not a Scorpions cover) hold their own very well, but the impressively naff ballad ‘Every Sunrise’ runs around your living room with all the finesse and intelligence of a recently decapitated chicken, but it does all pick up again to hit that rock sweet spot. Therein lies the rub really, this is a straight genre album – if, like me, you have a fondness for this sort of thing chances are you’ll like Kicked and Klawed, if not then you won’t – there’s nothing to attract the floating voter here.
The song writing peters out a bit by the end of the LP too, not an uncommon fault on glam LPs of this vintage, but let’s face it there were plenty of bigger bands out there not as good as Cats in Boots. I enjoyed this album more than I thought I would do and it deserves to be remembered more than it is. Maybe the world just wasn’t ready for a Japanese American band yet, oh well it’s the world’s loss. They also get 1537 bonus points for singing, what I hear as,
She leaves lipstick on my lettuce
This is either poor food hygiene, or a euphemism that never quite reached West Wales, or maybe this was just how wild Hollywood girls passed their time when they weren’t strippin’ and partyin’?
*and it is pretty original, I have all manner of LPs by kick ass and/or introspective chicks who don’t address their monthly need to shoot shit up with a shot gun. Who says late 80’s hair metal was issue-neutral, sexist, ear-mulch? ‘Somebody get her a Midol!’, as Mr Ellis sings.