Hundreds of years ago I remember reading a children’s story, one of the Just William books by Richmal Compton in fact, where it talked about not placing people on pedestals and idols having feet of clay – naturally in the book this caused all manner of literal interpretation, with humorous results. I never learned the lesson.
I have the fan reflex too readily, I seem to need heroes and heroines, chucking up pedestals as fast as my pedestal-building skills permit. Like a slap-dash holiday complex built-in 6 weeks on a rightly forgotten corner of a Mediterranean island, you can view them all in The Incredible Garden of Inevitably Disappointing Rock Fandom*, cracked and broken, subsiding into the inadequately dug foundations of my psyche. Walk on by past Perry Farrell**, swing a left at Bang Tango and carry on straight – if you pass Sting then you’ve gone too far. See over there? that vast plinth? once upon a time that was where Faster Pussycat resided, I loved them wore their T-shirts, carved their name onto more school desks than there were stars in the sky and played their LPs constantly. This is the story of their decline.
Whilst we all love picking up strippers and getting girls’ numbers off the bathroom wall, I really enjoyed Faster Pussycat’s darker, more complex second album Wake Me When It’s Over^ and I was hoping for more of the same, or a further evolved variation on the same, when they released Whipped! in 1992, although by that point in time I picked it up a month and a bit later, rather than the day it was released. I always thought the cover was a bit pants actually, a 60ft tall dominatrix chasing the band all dressed in black with dyed black hair, across a beach and then beating them all up in Russ Meyer approved fashion on the back cover; hardly surprising given that’s where they got the band’s name from^*.
There’s some music on Whipped! too. It kicks off with the most atypical track on the album ‘Non Stop To Nowhere’, a hooky, smooth almost AOR number replete with female backing vocals and radio-friendliness. Its’ umm different, perfectly okay but nothing special. The best two tracks on Whipped! are up next, ‘Body Thief’ and ‘Jack The Bastard’. Musically they both take their cues from one of my faves from the last LP, the dark atmospheric ‘Crying Shame’. Both tracks surf the griminess that clearly lay just behind the Sunset Strip at night, glam noir? the former being a catalogue of serial killing references and the latter’s seedy pulse reminds me of Circus of Power. Sadly that’s as good as it gets for this album.
Faster Pussycat’s problem to me always seemed to be that by this stage Taime Downe just appeared to be chasing musical fame, any which way he could. Grunge was big and had already proceeded to squash whatever audience there was left for albums like Whipped! so how do Faster Pussycat react? Taime Downe talks about being from Seattle in every interview and there’s a tribute to Andrew Wood (‘Mr Lovedog’ on the album). Red Hot Chili Peppers breaking it big? check out the potty-mouthed abomination that is the execrable ‘Loose Booty’^^. Hmm, ‘House of Pain’ sold a few copies – check out ‘Friends’ which actually features Nicky Hopkins on piano, particularly if your life is lacking a little blandness. Need I go on?
It saddens me that only 5 years on from hearing ‘Babylon’ on the radio, which threw all my musical tastes sideways a little, we got this rag-bag of demographic chasing mush. It just didn’t work, I don’t want to sound like a life coach but they would have just been better backing themselves on what they did well, once you start chasing it and sounding like other people then you’ve lost it. Never the very best musicians or the best singer, Faster Pussycat at their best were a good unit with some real swagger and a charismatic frontman. That only shines through in glimpses here.
There is one other little nugget in here I quite like too, it’s called ‘Cat Bash’ and it is a minute long rant about how shit Faster Pussycat are by a number of heavily disguised voices over an eerie electro backing, mostly denouncing the famously groupie hungry band in pretty homophobic terms, punctuated by a voice in the background stating ‘We don’t give a shit what the fuck you think’. It’s a risky track and shows some real imagination lacking elsewhere here I think, anyway I love swearing.
You guys think you’re so fucking cool cause you’re in Faster Pussycat
You guys might have gone gold but have you gone platinum, platinum, platinum,
I don’t think so
When was the last time your video was on T.V.
(We don’t give a shit what the fuck you think)
Unfortunately after a few plays I wasn’t listening any more either, it was their last release on a major label too, so I’m guessing most people passed. The band split up, Taime Downe started telling people he’d always been really into electro-shock industrial and formed the Newlydeads. A few years later he was back, kicking the pussycat’s corpse and turning them into a black lycra-clad electro version of themselves. Personally I fear the later LP titles tell their own story of desperation and decline Between The Valley of The Ultra Pussy, The Power & The Glory Hole andFront Row For The Donkey Show, Yeuuch! It’s all reached the point that if they pitched up and asked if they could play a charity gig on my lawn for local orphans I’d begrudge them the electricity, it all seems a long time ago that I spent every free hour practising drawing their logo.
But it isn’t all doom and gloom, I inherited their Belted, Buckled & Booted EP from my brother, which was pretty much the 12″ of ‘Nonstop To Nowhere’ also released in 1992. ‘Nonstop ..’ has been remixed here and labelled ‘AOR Version’, which seems to feature more backing vocals, less band – not as good as the LP version. Also included is their cover of Carly Simon’s ‘You’re So Vain’ which I always thought was good until the original became one of my fave songs years later, this version has everything you’d want from a sleaze rock cover of such a subtle track – incidentally the line ‘I bet you think this song is about you’, ranks up there with Cash shooting a man in Reno ‘just to watch him die’
The other two tracks, ‘Too Tight’ and ‘Charge Me Up’ are both rockers, unreleased elsewhere. Interestingly both tracks, especially the former, would have improved Whipped! at the expense of any of 6 or 7 tracks.
See those feet? solid clay I’m afraid. A sadder and a wiser man I rose the morrow morn.
I don’t think so.
* or the Ingidrof as I have very cleverly shortened it to.
**I have not and will never forgive him for finding out that his name was adopted as a pun on ‘peripheral’ – I used to worship you, moron! Until you let that one slip on a DVD extra somewhere.
^rumours that this was solely because that’s what girlfriends used to say to me are entirely unfounded. I’ll sue if you repeat that too.
^*anyway, Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! isn’t a patch on Vixen (goes away to debate the relative merits of Erica Gavin and Tura Satana with self, for 40 minutes).
^^afraid I’m really not a fan of the real thing, so an ersatz RHCP really doesn’t float my boat.