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Faster Pussycat: Babylon-The Elektra Years 1987-1992

Having counted myself as one of those who saw their arrival (along with others) as the beginning of the end of the 80s rock scene, I must admit that I very nearly passed on the opportunity to review this four CD look back at Faster Pussycat’s five year tenure with Elektra Records. Titled Babylon - The Elektra Years 1987-1992, this release brings together the band’s first three albums, Faster Pussycat (1987), Wake Me When It’s Over (1989) and Whipped! (1992) along with their 1990 EP, Live And Rare, while the four track release from ’92, Belted, Buckled And Booted, is tacked onto the end of disc four as ‘bonus tracks’. So it’s pretty comprehensive stuff and it all arrives in a smart clamshell boxset with a six-panel fold-out poster featuring images of the band and artwork on one side, and the album tracks and credits on the other. The only thing really missing is some context or a little history of the band to read as the tracks spin by.

So why my initial disdain at the thought of this release? Well, because back in ’87, I already saw the arrival of Faster Pussycat as the acceleration of image over substance that would be hastened by the likes of Pretty Boy Floyd and many others not long after. However, even with that in mind, I did listen to this band’s self titled debut a lot when it came out thanks to friends loving the tweety-pie ‘Pu-pu-pu-pu-up-pussycat’ opening to the song from which this set takes its name, “Babylon”. To be fair they also really liked the rap/sung vocals from Taime Downe and the diluted Beastie Boys like guitars from Brent Muscat. Lyrically, it’s as dumb as anything, but admittedly, as 14 year olds guys, we did laugh along. However, in truth, I never did find much more than that going on here and re-listening to the likes of “Bathroom Wall” now does nothing to dispel that notion. In fairness, however, the cartoon chase riff and roll of “Smash Alley” adds just enough of a sneer to the obvious pouting to snag the interest, with the bass line from Eric Stacey locked in tight with drummer Mark Michals and rhythm guitarist Greg Steele. The album did, however, gain a lot of notice and with the likes of “Don’t Change That Song” and “City Has No Heart”, at least the all too apparent attitude felt authentic.

Wake Me When It’s Over on the other hand propelled the band into the the top 50 of the US album charts, with the single, “House Of Pain” going further and landing at #28 in the Hot 100. And, with hindsight, the evolution from the debut to this album was evident for all to hear. The hit-single itself fails into the glam-ballad category that so many bands back then managed to ride into the wider consciousness, and it still just about stands up today, even if Taime’s vocal whining will always prove an acquired taste that I’ll never quite master. On a personal level, the lesser known singles from this album really do hit the spot, the big gyrating riff and shimmy of “Where There’s A Whip There’s A Way” and good time holler of “Poison Ivy” both solid and memorable in a way that the more throwaway debut material never quite managed to be - at least not for me anyway - but not that much else here comes up to that standard.

More a stop-gap release to try and keep the band’s name in the press, Live And Rare was a six track 1990 release comprising a remix of “Bathroom Wall”, edits of “Poison Ivy” and “House Of Pain”, as well as live versions of “Pulling Weeds”, “Slip Of The Tongue” and “Babylon”, which all appeared in their original guises on the first two albums. It would be difficult to call any of them essential, but for Faster fans, their addition will be welcome.

The only Faster Pussycat album that I ever actually owned was the band’s third full length release, Whipped!, with its cover art alluding quite strongly to the Russ Meyer film from which this outfit took their name. And for me, it’s head and shoulders the best album here, even if neither it, nor its singles, made much of an impact outside of glam rock circles. Admittedly, the time it was released - 1992 - maybe explains that, what with the Seattle scene now really beginning to shape what mainstream rock was becoming. And, with new drummer Brett Bradshaw behind the kit, that was a real shame, because right from the opening “Nonstop To Nowhere”, this Pussycat sounded like a much more focussed beast. Gone was much of the pointless pouting, with the real intent from the likes of “Jack The Bastard” and the pounding “Madam Ruby’s Love Boutique” a welcome change of tack. That said, for whatever reasons, that new eye on the prize slips away as the album moves towards its conclusion, “Cat Bash” a strange amalgam of sampled clips, before “Loose Booty” undoes a lot of the good work through a sub-Aerosmith meets rap-rock pile of nonsense. And with “Mr Lovedog” and “Out With A Bang” closing the album in less than inspired style, it feels like an admirable desire to add diversity ends up just unravelling into a mess of half finished ideas. Here the album is rounded out by the aforementioned four track EP Belted, Buckled And Booted, which offers the excellent “Nonstop To Nowhere (CHR Version)” and the pretty decent Whipped! session leftovers of “Too Tight” and “And Charge Me Up”, both of which in my opinion should have made the album itself. The final track was a single released from the Rubáiyát: Elektra's 40th Anniversary compilation album and I have to say that as cover versions go, Faster Pussycat’s run through of the Carly Simon hit “You’re So Vain” (a song I’ve never loved) is amongst the worst I can remember. If ever there’s a dull lifeless attempt at a track that the band doing the cover just can’t get a handle on, it’s this one right here.

So, in the end, while well presented and given a solid sonic shake up, Babylon - The Elektra Years 1987-1992 has only managed to reaffirm my long held belief that Faster Pussycat were a good band who spent way too much time fitting into the scene, instead of simply making great music. The first two thirds of Whipped! illustrate what this band could have been and a few isolated tracks along the way also live up to those standards, but in truth, to me anyway, not all that much else does. However, their horribly titled 2006 album, The Power And The Glory Hole (which only features Downe from the band that released these albums and EPs) aside, this is as comprehensive a Faster Pussycat retrospective release as you could hope to find.


Track Listing
CD1: FASTER PUSSYCAT

1. Don’t Change That Song
2. Bathroom Wall
3. No Room For Emotion
4. Cathouse
5. Babylon
6. Smash Alley
7. Shooting You Down
8. City Has No Heart
9. Ship Rolls In
10. Bottle In Front Of Me

CD2: WAKE ME WHEN IT’S OVER

1. Where There’s A Whip, There’s A Way
2. Little Dove
3. Poison Ivy
4. House Of Pain
5. Gonna Walk
6. Pulling Weeds
7. Slip Of The Tongue
8. Cryin’ Shame
9. Tattoo
10. Ain’t No Way Around It
11. Arizona Indian Doll
12. Please Dear

CD3: LIVE AND RARE

1. Bathroom Wall
2. Poison Ivy
3. Pulling Weeds
4. Slip Of The Tongue
5. Babylon
6. House Of Pain

CD4: WHIPPED!
1. Nonstop To Nowhere
2. The Body Thief
3. Jack The Bastard
4. Big Dictionary
5. Madam Ruby’s Love Boutique
6. Only Way Out
7. Maid In Wonderland
8. Friends
9. Cat Bash
10. Loose Booty
11. Mr. Lovedog
12. Out With A Bang
BONUS TRACKS
13. Nonstop To Nowhere (CHR Version)
14. Too Tight
15. Charge Me Up
16. You’re So Vain

Added: February 16th 2022
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Faster Pussycat @ Cherry Red
Hits: 647
Language: english

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