If you want to understand why glam metal was so popular in the late ’80s, you should listen to a band that had more bite than Poison and better sense of the absurd than Cinderella, which is to say: Faster Pussycat.
Named for the Russ Meyer movie Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill! the band was just as ludicrous and awesome as its namesake. On its debut album, the band is rough, cocky and a hell of a lot of fun, whether their lyrics are making sense or not.
I want to say side one starts off with “Don’t Change That Song,” but that just shows I remember listening to this album on cassette. But vocalist Taime Downe must have also known, in 1987 when this first came out, he was dating himself as he sang passionately about spinning his favourite records on vinyl. The opening track is fast, loud, and a little sloppy — just like the rest of the album, which is what makes it great.
The band shows its debt to ’70s blues rockers like Aerosmith with Brent Muscat’s wailing lead guitar on “Bathroom Wall,” an endearing number on finding someone to hook up with from a phone number scrawled in a public restroom.
The real standouts on the album, though, are “Babylon” and “Smash Alley.”
“Babylon” was pioneering rap-rock years before Anthrax or Kid Rock with its stuttering sample of “P-p-p-p-p-pussycat (shut up!)” — which is not to say Faster Pussycat was out to break aesthetic boundaries and charge through to new musical territory. They seemed mostly content with the “breaking” part. But the song is just hyperactive, obnoxious fun, with Downe yowling and screaming his way through mostly nonsensical lyrics.
“Smash Alley,” on the other hand, growls through an inverted Peter Gunn riff and keeps the tone dark. “Lipstick, junkies and runaways / In Smash Alley / Say goodbye to your mother if you’re gonna hang out in Smash Alley…” Deep? No. Nihilistic and streetwise? Well, a lot more than you’d find on anything Poison put out. In spirit, Faster Pussycat was a lot closer to Guns N’ Roses and Mötley Crüe than the prettier pop-metal bands that dominated in the late ’80s.
And for a bunch of smart-aleck L.A. street rats, they show a lot of savvy on “Ship Rolls In,” as Chuck Klosterman points out in Fargo Rock City. Taime and the gang knew you didn’t have to be consummate musicians or poets to make it in this world, but charm and a bit of smarts could take you far.
They round the album off with “Bottle In Front of Me,” and while an ode to drunkenness that puns on the phrase “frontal lobotomy” isn’t particularly profound, it still shows they had the sense to know self-destruction when they engaged in it.
Sadly, follow-up albums lost the energy Faster Pussycat showed on its debut, becoming as slick and soulless as many of the others they were crowding record-store space with — and thus losing one of the things that really made them stand out.
- Elektra, 1987
- 4 stars out of 5