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.
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!