Sunday, 30 April 2017

Faster Pussycat - Faster Pussycat

Provenance: My brother Richard - a golfer, pugilism enthusiast and Spurs fan - bought me this for my birthday as part of a clutch of glam albums which, if memory serves, included titles by Dokken and Cinderella.

Richard and I are only a year apart in age, so grew up together and developed similar tastes in music. We even played (badly) in the same band together, in a drummer / guitarist configuration like Van Halen. Somehow, we didn't enjoy comparable levels of success with our lumpen Metallica, Diamond Head and Drowning Pool covers.

Review: The glam metal (aka hair metal, aka butt rock) era was, in its first flush, longer lived as a prominent scene than either punk or grunge, but whilst the influence of both the latter movements is enduring, the same cannot be said for the former. Occasional successes such as The Darkness and Steel Panther stick out as anomalies, and it's fair to say that an element of pastiche and lampoon was required in order for both those bands to make their mark. In some parts of Europe glam clings on - walking around Sweden Rock Festival is always an uncanny experience, seeing bronzed young Scandinavians dolled up for a night out on the Sunset Strip - but otherwise it exists largely as a semi-fondly remembered genre fit only for discussion by time-wasting idiots who still use antiquated online message boards.

The scene had its big hitters like Motley Crue, Bon Jovi and Poison. In the second rank, I guess, you'd find Skid Row, Ratt, Cinderella, Quiet Riot, Warrant and the like. Then you get the interesting crap, the also-rans and maybe-could-have-beens, who came a coating of Aquanet away from true stardom, and in my estimation it's here where you'll find Faster Pussycat.

I'm going to be automatically well-disposed towards any band that takes their name from a Russ Meyer film; and the invocation of the mammary-obsessed savant of smut is entirely apt given that Faster Pussycat are every bit as sleazy and priapic as one could expect. Unlike Poison (tough name, wimpy music) or Molly Hatchet (album art suggests heroic power metal; reality is hick southern rock with whistling), Faster Pussycat deliver as a concept. It's just a shame that the singer went and named himself Taime Downe.

I say 'singer', because lead sneerer is more accurate. Mr Downe is never going to play a season at the Met. Not that it matters, because it's perfect for the low-rent sound that Faster Pussycat scrape together on this dirty little debut. It's hard not to crack a smile at a song about getting phone numbers from the wall of the toilet, a song that, aside from a couple of paeans to shitty, superficial (and therefore, awesome) Los Angeles, sets the tone rather ably for everything else on the album. Mired gleefully in a glitter-flecked gutter, you fancy you can not only listen to Faster Pussycat, you can smell it too.

Technically speaking, nobody is pulling up trees on this album. I would give a one-armed human being who's previously never encountered neither a guitar nor the concept of music about two hours to learn all the riffs. One suspects, reading between the lines of 'Babylon', that between cruising around in convertibles and inhaling a brave portion of Bolivia's GDP, Faster Pussycat didn't spend too much time at rehearsal.

Not everything holds up, though. 'Smash Alley', a largely unforgettable track, leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth with its references to underage girls. Perhaps this seemed daring and edgy back in 1987, and perhaps sensibilities have changed (for the better), but I can't think of any situation in which statutory rape can be mentioned so callously, approvingly even, and be justified as any kind of artistic statement. We've not written Lolita here, guys. A shame, then, as Faster Pussycat is delightfully tasteless without needing to resort to cheap shock tactics. A damn shame, because by and large this is boneheaded, escapist fun. As a celebration of the seedy side of life Faster Pussycat's debut is for the most part a triumph.

Am I being a prude? Taking this all too seriously? It's certainly not the only song to mentioned liaisons with underage girls - I can think of 'Seventeen' by Winger in the hair metal world, 'Christine Sixteen' by KISS, 'Jailbait' by the ineffable Ted Nugent and 'Stray Cat Blues' by the Rolling Stones (a song I really like). I just can't muster any will or enthusiasm to defend this kind of thing. If attitudes towards the sexualisation of minors have hardened, well, good. I'm not expecting anything halfway progressive from a band called Faster Pussycat (nor would I wish to narrow down the field of music, film or literature I enjoy to solely those works that advance a progressive agenda), but I'm never going to be comfortable with grown men boasting about the sexual availability of minors. Fuck that noise.

Next week: my amazingly well-reasoned, nuanced and considered views on both 'Oliver's Army' by Elvis Costello and 'Rednecks' by Randy Newman!

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