The Demo

REVIEW: Slash Puppet – Studs & Gems (2021)

SLASH PUPPET – Studs & Gems (2021)

With copies of Slash Puppet’s first demo and first EP going for ridiculous amounts of money on Ebay, lead singer Mif decided to do something about it. It was time for a new release; a compilation this time, with one unreleased track for the collector.

Studs & Gems features 10 tracks from the band’s previous releases plus an unreleased live track called “Stranger Danger” recorded at Rock N’ Roll Heaven in Toronto. And what a track it is! An energetic, stuttery riff of the AC/DC persuasion serves as backing for Mif’s overloaded live vocal workout. This accelerated rocker stands up with Slash Puppet’s recorded works, and makes one wish for more live tapes. The tail of the track includes a nod to AC/DC’s “Danger” in a brilliant end twist.

As for the studio material, the album is top-loaded right off the bat with three of Slash’s Puppet’s most accomplished pieces of songwriting, all from the EP. “When the Whip Comes Down” is first, stomping fast-paced and unstoppable. The irresistible “na na na na” pre-chorus just sets you up to be knocked down again! Outstanding guitar work helps frame some of Mif’s coolest lyrics about overcoming adversity. Then it’s “Rippin’ on a Wishbone” which takes things back to a nice rocking groove accented by slide guitars and hooks galore. The whole while, Mif’s unique rasp keeps the sound from being generic. This string of solid gold is capped by “Eyes of a Child”, a truly special acoustic ballad that, in a just world, would be a million seller. Taking things seriously and singing from the heart, Slash Puppet should have had a massive hit on their hands. If only the 90s weren’t the 90s. “Eyes of a Child” has every ingredient, housed within a majestic, carefully constructed, classic power ballad.

With “Evil Woman”, the compilation dips back into 1989’s The Demo. In terms of remastering, things sounds pretty even between the two eras, so well done there. “Evil Woman” is one of Slash Puppet’s fast head-bangers. However they always had a knack for backing vocals to sweeten up the hooks. This was actually the closing track on the original demo, but it works fine where it is. “Hard On Love”, also from The Demo, goes slower and sleazier. Mif’s growl has plenty of bite, but note the backing vocals always there when you need ’em.

Back to the EP, “Stop Tellin’ Me Lies” is one of the most classic-sounding Slash Puppet tunes, reminding us a bit of songs that London Quireboys used to have hits with. The backing vocals are really laid out with care. This could be the most flat-out instantly catchy of the tracks. Note the tasteful use of classy slide guitar once again. Staying on the EP, “Hitch a Ride (On a Train)” is a special song. Contemplative acoustic guitars and philosophical lyrics set it apart from the other tracks. Everybody loves train metaphors, but once again there’s just something special here. The acoustic guitar arrangement and the heartfelt lyrics set it apart.

The last three studio songs are all classics from The Demo. “Slowdown” is just balls-out. Everything to the max, from the tempo to the rasp. The band made a well-received music video, in a time when bands often couldn’t make music videos to support an independent release. “Squeeze It In” was the other demo tune that made waves, and it takes things back down to the gutter. A slow grind with innuendo spilling over the rim. Memorable as hell; tasteful guitar work keeping things from going completely to excess. Finally “Overload” takes the tempo back to top gear. If you’re going to call your song “Overload”, you better deliver.

Slash Puppet always delivered. 32 years ago, the band played their first gig and now we finally have an official live track for the CD collection. “Stranger Danger” closes the CD on a resounding note: we want more.

Studs & Gems can be obtained directly from Mif Entertainment, but act fast as this is a limited edition, and paying $200 on eBay for a copy of the EP is just unfortunate.

5/5 stars


Slash Puppet:

Mif – Lead Vocals
Frank Bartoletti – Guitars and Backing Vocals
Lou Garscadden – Guitars and Backing Vocals
Franklin Wylse – Drums and Backing Vocals
Pete Dove – Bass and Backing Vocals (1989-1992)
Dave Carreiro – Bass (1992-1995)

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!