A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
October 26, 2007
Named after director Herschell Gordon Lewis’ classic 1972 grind-house movie — the plot of which is described on the Internet Movie Database as “ditsy reporter enlists the help of a sleazy private eye to solve a series of gory killings of female strippers at a Chicago nightclub” — The Gore Gore Girls play a basic, slightly retro, guitar-crunch rock.
Judging from their new album Get the Gore, you can tell they’ve listened a lot to Joan Jett (Kim Fowley, who discovered Jett and managed The Runaways, co-wrote one song here). But they don’t quite have the sublime snarl of L7 (I still love you, Suzie Gardner!) or the genius howl of Sleater-Kinney.
Perhaps the best comparison is with their homegirls and Bloodshot labelmates The Detroit Cobras (with whom they share bass player Carol Ann Schumacher). However, GGG frontwoman Amy “Gore” Sardu doesn’t have the slinky charisma of Cobras singer Rachel Nagy. And the Gore Gores can’t match the material of The Cobras, who specialize in covering great old forgotten rock and R & B tunes from the ’50s and ’60s, most of which are so obscure they might as well be original.
The Gore Gores do have a few cover songs here. The Crystals’ “All Grown Up,” with lyrics like “I’m all grown up and I’ll go where I wanna go, see who I wanna see, stay out late,” seems a little too cutesy and calculated. But the song “Where Evil Grows,” written by Terry “Seasons in the Sun” Jacks, is sinister in a psychedelic way. It even features a sitar. Was this song ever used in a Roger Corman or Russ Meyer movie?
The best original songs are “You Lied to Me Before,” which sounds like the early Kinks, except with female singers, and “Pleasure Unit,” co-written by Fowley. “Deep down inside I’m a selfish witch/One half tomboy and one half bitch/Breaking hearts is what I do/Getting through to creeps like you.” The Girls thunder on this one.
You can “get the Gore” at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, when they play at the O’Shaughnessy Performance Space at the College of Santa Fe, 1600 St. Michael’s Drive. Tickets are $8 at the door.
* We Are the Pipettes by The Pipettes. Like the Gore Gore Girls, this British trio has an affection for sexy ’60s retro fashion. The GGGs favor sleek, mod, go-go miniskirts while The Pipettes go for polka-dot mini-dresses.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. But for The Pipettes, fashion — more than music — seems to be their whole reason for being. “We’re the prettiest girls you’ve ever met,” they chirp in their Monkees-like title song. Maybe I’m jaded, but I see a slightly hipper version of The Spice Girls here.
The Pipettes’ music has been likened to that of the the early ’60s girl-group era. As with that Phil Spector-dominated phenomenon, the basic sound is sweeping and bombastic. But this new, synthy “wall of sound” sounds as if it’s made of Styrofoam. The Pipettes and their producers try to make up with sheen and sleekness what they lack in heart and soul. The faux early-1960s soundtrack of the ’80ske of Little Shop of Horrors has more meat to it than this album. Maybe The Pipettes should cover “Suddenly, Seymour.”
That being said, I have to confess I do kind of like “Dirty Mind.” Not just because I have one, but because it reminds me of “Roam” by The B-52’s.
But if you want to hear a modern presentation of the spirit of the girl-group era, check out Dangerous Game, the comeback album of former Shangri-La Mary Weiss (reviewed a few months ago in this column).
And for what it’s worth, I think the Spice Girls are prettier than The Pipettes.
*Balboa Island by The Pretty Things. Despite their name, these aren’t the prettiest boys you’ve ever met. These guys probably are the closest thing we have to a real-life Spinal Tap. They’ve been around just about as long as The Rolling Stones. Guitarist Dick Taylor actually played in an early version of The Stones with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Brian Jones.
The Pretty Things have broken up and reformed a few times. Some members have come one and come back again. Recently they’ve had to live with the indignity of knowing that a whole generation of potential fans might mistake them for a bunch of young whippersnappers who call themselves “Dirty Pretty Things.”
But the good old clean Pretty Things still have original members Taylor and singer Phil May as well as Jon Povey (keyboards), Wally Waller (bass), and Skip Alan (drums), all of whom first joined the band before the ’60s were over.
And the new album is surprisingly vital and strong — at least most of it. The first song, “The Beat Goes On” (no, not the Sonny & Cher hit) is a memory-lane look at the stardom they nearly had. “Way back in 1964, we came a-crashing through the door,” May sings as the drums pound and the guitar tension builds. This song even name-checks that other band. “So now the Dirty Pretty Things are fixing up with broken strings. ... There’s no more fame, the beat goes on, you have your day, and your day is done.”
The next several numbers are almost as riveting. “Buried Alive” sounds as if Keith Moon came back from the dead. And the eight-minute “(Blues for) Robert Johnson” is hypnotic. Maybe it goes on a little too long for most listeners, but I find myself not wanting it to end.
But The Pretty Things come from the pre-CD days when the album was much shorter. By the end of Balboa Island, the songs begin to fade. There are a couple of straight blues tunes (the best being a Percy Mayfield-influenced tune called “Freedom Song”) and a couple of Beatlesesque numbers that frankly aren’t that interesting. Finally, there’s the title song, a dirge about a highway accident that never seems to go anywhere.
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