Faster Pussycat

REVIEW: Elektra’s 40th Anniversary – Plunderphonics (1991 Elektra promo EP)

scan_20170127Elektra’s 40th Anniversary – Plunderphonics (1991 Elektra promo EP)

This is one of the weirdest CDs I have ever run across.  Remember in 1990, when Elektra did that anniversary CD called Rubáiyát that featured Elektra’s new bands covering Elektra’s old bands? It was the first release of Metallica’s “Stone Cold Crazy” and the first time anyone heard a hint of what Metallica were up to in the studio after Justice.  This promotional EP is a companion piece to Rubáiyát.

So what’s this EP? A “plunderphonic” is like a remix. The big difference is, they use only finished recordings, no multi-track master tapes. No going back to strip a vocal out of a song, no fiddling. Only actual snips of complete songs are used. A “new” piece is creating by chopping up and rearranging bits from other previously recorded pieces. Therefore, anybody can make their own plunderphonic using readily available songs. The man who invented the term, John Oswald, did the “plunderphonics” for this very rare promotional EP. His lightning-fast edits keeps things surprising.

The main attraction here, and the reason I own the CD, is a piece called “2 Net” by Metallica. I bet you never heard of that one, let alone heard the piece! It is a 1:21 mash-up of “Stone Cold Crazy” with a bunch of bits and bobs from …And Justice For All, and it’s as weird as that sounds. It’s a blur, almost incomprehensible. Fitting the thrash giants’ riffs into 1:21 will tend to have that effect. Building a composition out of Hetfield barks and Ulrich snares is fun as it sounds, even though it’s over before you can figure out what’s going on. Oswald mixed in some of Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy” vocal for some melody. Crazy!

The most interesting track is the most unlikely: A cross between Carly Simon’s and Faster Pussycat’s “You’re So Vain”. The end result, “Vane” makes the two into one. If you have ever wanted to hear Taime Downe and Carly Simon perform the song together, this is your chance. It’s incredible how well the two versions contrast, since Faster Pussycat is about as different from Carly Simon as anyone can imagine.  It zips from Taime to Carly and back again, as they trade words almost seamlessly!  Another successful track is The Doors’ “O’Hell”. This is (obviously) based on “Hello, I Love You”. Bits of other Doors songs provide more instrumentation and effects.  Fans of Morrison will absolutely adore it and imagine their own plunderphonics to invent.  The MC5 arrive with “Mother”, based off the Kick Out the Jams album.  It’s a lot of shouting and screaming and it’s all good.  For something soft, check out “Anon” by Tim Buckley.  This is taken from Buckley’s “Anonymous Proposition”, made shorter and psychedelic.

It is very hard to describe the complexity of these tracks.  There could be hundreds of individual edits per song, because there is so much going on.  The Simon/Pussycat song is a great example of how this is more than just a gimmick.  It’s art, and anybody can try to do one themselves.  In fact, without knowing the name for it, I have heard many plunderphonics before, at our annual Sausagefest countdown.  Tom and Uncle Meat are skilled at making them, but I have never heard anything like these five tracks before — ever.  These are above and beyond anything I’ve heard in the field.

The liner notes indicate that five more plunderphonics were planned for this CD, but not included.  “Recipes” for making your own are inside.  It’s almost like five bonus tracks, but you have to make them yourself!

Rating this CD is difficult, and since it was never meant to be sold, almost pointless.  However you can find reasonably priced copies on Discogs, so a rating is necessary.  This CD is interesting.  It’s good, but it’s not meant for listening for pleasure.  It almost acts like caffeine to the brain.  Every song has so much going on that you are constantly listening and trying to catch it all.  It’s also short, so buy wisely.

3/5 stars

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REVIEW: Skid Row – B-Sides Ourselves (1992)

SKID ROW – B-Sides Ourselves (1992 Atlantic EP)

This was a great EP, ranking among some of the better examples of such a format in metal.  I love the MAD-Magazine-esque cover artwork.  I also loved the concept of this EP as a bit of a treat to tide the fans over during the excruciatingly long four year wait between albums. The five selections are all fun, performed competently, and sound like Skid Row. They also sound like a band who truly loves these songs and knows them backwards and forwards.  It’s not quite as satisfying as you want it to be, as it’s only about 18 1/2 minutes long.   (I mean hey, there’s a Ramones cover on here so there you go.)  This is meant to be nothing more than a fun snack, and as such pay no more for this than you’d be willing to pay for any 18 minute CD.

Tracklist time!

1. “Psycho Therapy”

Bassist Rachel Bolan sings this Ramones-approved cover (backed by Faster Pussycat’s Taime Downe).  It was chosen as the first single/video. Excellent cover, very authentic. So well received, it was even included on their Forty Seasons: The Best Of CD.

2. “C’Mon And Love Me”

Classic Kiss cover from Dressed To Kill! A great riffy Kiss song. Skid Row do it justice.  It’s one of those solid, meat & potatoes rock songs that requires no frills, just some solid guitars.  I think this is definitely one of my favourite Kiss covers ever.

3. “Delivering the Goods” (Live)

Featuring the Metal God himself, Rob Halford, in a duet with his buddy Baz! One thing that is immediately obvious is that Baz is absolutely pumped. But then again, he does state that he’s been waiting his whole life to share a stage with Halford.  Great cover, very live sounding, mistakes and all.  Still, “Delivering the Goods” is the weakest of these covers…yet it still blows away most bands.

4. “What You’re Doing”

Perhaps the best cover on the album. This is a first-album Rush cover. Back when Geddy was writing the lyrics, and before Rush were singing about how trees are talking to each other and how different sides of your brain works, or outerspace bullshit. It’s an absolutely ferocious, angry Skid Row cover with Baz paying tribute to his countrymen. Excellent, obscure choice and the only cover on the album that I hadn’t heard somebody else do before (or since).

5. “Little Wing”

A surprisingly great turn on the Hendrix classic. Very different from Jimi’s version (obviously), this sounds nonetheless authentic and classy. Of note, the Skids also did a live-in-the-studio version for the music video.  I wish that version was released on a CD as well.  Unlikely we’ll see that happen.

Covers records can be so very hit-or-miss, but this one is five hits.  Battleship sunk.  Just wish it wasn’t all over in 18 minutes.

5/5 stars

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REVIEW: Slash Puppet – No Strings Attached (aka The Demo, 1989)

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SLASH PUPPET – No Strings Attached (2007 Sun City Records)

Slash Puppet were one of the biggest names of the burgeoning Toronto rock scene of the early 1990’s.  Unfortunately, unlike their competition Sven Gali and I Mother Earth, they never got signed to a major label.  They did, however, manage to sell out 2500 copies of their first recording, The Demo, an independent cassette, via mail order.  They were the darlings of M.E.A.T Magazine and appeared on MuchMusic’s Power Hour.  Slash Puppet signed a management deal with Ray Danniels and SRO (Rush) who later also handled Van Halen, King’s X, and Extreme.

SLASH PUPPET GLOSSY

I was one of the 2500 people who ordered The Demo.  Every mail order was accompanied by a glossy 8 1/2 x 11 autographed photo.  I still have mine, this is especially treasured since their talented lead guitarist, Lou Garscadden, passed away in 2001.   Today, lead vocalist Mif (originally billed as “Tony Terrance Dartanian”, for some weird reason) is a successful actor.   That’s him as the mob boss in Norm McDonald’s hilarious Dirty Work, billed under his real name, Anthony J. Mifsud!

Incredibly, for a band that never put out a major label release and split in 1994, Australia’s Sun City Records reissued The Demo on CD in 2007, as No Strings Attached.  A well-assembled package, it features liner notes, lyrics, and loads of photos.

This ass-kicker starts with a bang:  “Slow Down”.  This was the first video, and it even made a return appearance (in slightly remixed form) on the second Slash Puppet release, a self-titled EP.  “Slow Down” is an infectious hard rocker, a tougher and faster Faster Pussycat with a way, way raspier singer.  It has more integrity than most of the Sunset Strip of the time combined.  And this was from the bad bad streets of Mississauga!

The extremely catchy ‘Squeeze It In” follows, a mid-tempo groover, and my personal favourite song.  This one just drips sleaze with a knack for gritty melody.   Up next is “Hard On Love”.  It’s another concoction of raspy lead vocals, catchy backing gang vocals, and pure sex.  It’s twice as hard as anything Hollywood was producing at the time.  “Bad Girls”, which closed side one of the original cassette, is about the only misstep.  While the song is another adrenaline-filled sex romp, the chorus lacks punch.

It’s here that I think the CD edition of No Strings Attached differs from The Demo.  If memory serves correctly, side two began with “Overload” and closed with “Turn It On”.  On the CD, the track order seems switched.  Unfortunately, my original cassette copy is now lost.

Regardless, “Turn It On” is fast paced, raspy and built for sex.  It’s not an upper-echelon song, it’s more similar to “Bad Girls”, the chorus is a bit thin.  The band compensates with the excellent “Evil Woman”.  Great chorus, great hooks, and it sounds great in the car.  It also has a cool dual guitar solo by Lou Garscadden and Frank “Bart” Bartoletti, proving these guys had the chops.

The dark and slower-paced “Some Kind O’ Lady” provides some variety on an album that is otherwise very party-oriented.  This killer tune was always one of my favourites.  It has some killer soloing and a great riff.  The verses kind of remind me of a Testament ballad like “Return To Serenity”, but before Testament even wrote that song.  Maybe it’s the grit in Mif’s voice that reminds me of Chuck Billy.

“Overload” closes the CD on an upbeat note.  It has a fast, playful riff, sleazy lyrics and plenty of grit.  It’s totally headbang-worthy.  And with that, the CD ends, listener exhausted by half an hour of pure heavy glam rock!

The production values for this album are not the greatest.  Keep in mind this was originally a self-financed demo tape, never meant for wide release, and never intended for CD.  The guitar solos are often buried, and the backing vocals sound a bit thin.  What does come across is the grit of Mif, an underrated singer and frontman (by all contemporary accounts).

As mentioned, Slash Puppet returned with an EP later (released by indi Fringe), amped up, better sounding and more mature without losing an ounce of their street-tough sensibilities.  Look for a review of that ultra-rarity in a future edition of mikeladano.com!

As for No Strings Attached?

4/5 stars, baby!