Saturday, 17 April 2010


Wicked Little Dolls are a New York based band and their self titled debut album was released in 2006.  They rapidly became one of my favourite bands and I've played their CD to death.  Wicked Little Dolls is an appropiate name for a band that is so charming and deadly.  Lead singer Scareifina has that demonic little girl voice popularised by Jessicka of Jack Off Jill --- even when she screams obscenities and spits threats out there's a certain sweetness to it like poisoned candy.  Musically, the band are on top form pounding out infectious tunes with a strong metal influence.  I do agree with other reviews that say they sound like Jack Off Jill but in my book that can only ever be a good thing and I don't see why a great band like Jack Off Jill shouldn't inspire or influence other bands.  Although I think WLD have more of a glam/punk tinge to their metal sound and their horror imagery is more overt and tongue in cheek.  Their songs are dark and sharp, fabulously catchy anthems to glitter Goth trash dolls and wicked toys that should appeal to a wider audience.



This is Rasputina's 5th full-length studio album --- for over 10 years now founder member Melora Creager has redefined cello music for a whole generation, sampling and distorting string music and combining with other instruments like dulcimer and drums and diverse influences from American folk music to gothic rock to create stunning musical landscapes.  Oh Perilous World is perhaps her most ambitious concept to date.  Rasputina have always written songs about weird and wonderful subjects (could any other band have written a song like Rats, about the Pope's decision to reclassify capybara, a South American rodent, as fish so Catholics could eat them on Friday) and so far they've managed to pull them off most of the time with breathtaking audacity.

This album tells the story of Mary Todd Lincoln, the queen of Florida and how she dealt with an uprising from Pitcairn Island led by Thursday October Christian, the son of Fletcher Christian.  Melora has used songs based on past events like the extreme weather conditions of 1816 and the Children's Crusades of the Middle Ages to mirror events more recently like global warming or the use of child soldiers in African armies.  As well as writing her own lyrics she has used lyrics based on other source material such as news reports of Hurricane Katrina or a speech by Osama Bin Laden.

It's undoubtedly a bold move but personally I didn't feel like it quite came off.  They've kept their distinctive sound and even after 10 years they're still exploring variations (this album uses more dulcimer than before) and it sounds great but none of the tracks particularly stand out.  It seems such a shame that such original music ends up as background music especially after all the effort that has gone into it.  The album has beautiful artwork (and the deluxe package came with a set of postcards) that reflects the Victorian/steampunk style of Rasputina and deluxe editions came with a bonus CD of an extra 9 songs (2 remixes and 7 originals not on the main album).  Maybe it was just me but I couldn't follow the concept through the various songs and I felt like using other source material almost made it sound like speaking in tongues at time.  It was an ambitious concept and only a band like Rasputina would probably even attempt something like this.  If you shoot for the moon and miss, you'll end up among the stars.



Melora Creager is the founder member (and main vocalist/songwriter) for cello-rock ensemble Rasputina.  This is her first solo CD and was released at the end of 2006.  Musically, it isn't a great departure from the Rasputina sound although Melora has used keyboards on a couple of songs which Rasputina have only used on rare occasions earlier in their career.  The songs are more towards the quirkier, unusual type of Rasputina song so although they do sound good they lack the immediate impact of songs like The Mayor or AntiqueHighHeelRedDollShoes.   It's been indicated that she intended this EP to be a taster for the next Rasputina album but presumably contractual obligatons meant she had to release it under her own name  (Rasputina are now on their own label, Filthy Bonnet Co.) rather than as a Rasputina EP.

Their previous E.P.s had been comprised solely of cover versions/remixes and they'd already done a live album so maybe she thought it would be good to do something different as a taster so this EP features 6 original tracks and 1 cover version, American Girl by Tom Petty.  This EP continues the theme that Rasputina have used in the past of writing about historical events in an eccentric way or interpreting current events with an idiosyncratic twist.  So we get songs about the volcanic eruption at Krakatoa and Warbots (military robots) and lyrics taken from the news reports of the California storms from a few years ago.  But apart from a great rendition of American Girl, I'm afraid that although it was pleasant enough, it didn't haunt me in the way previous Rasputina releases have.  If you're a die hard Rasputina fan you'll probably still like to have it and it's enough of a curiousity to be worth taking a chance on if you're a fan of other great eccentrics like Joanna Newsome or Bjork but if you're looking for a specific introduction to the genius of Rasputina, I'd honestly recommend an earlier album.



This is Scarling's first full-length album (following on from a couple of singles and an EP/mini album, Sweetheart Dealer) which has seen another change of personnel.  Personally, I thought the songs sounded stronger and more substantial.  Scarling have gone for an indie/alternative sound reminiscent of some of the early 90s bands like My Bloody Valentine or Lush with a "thick" guitar sound that creates a shimmering wall of sound effect that washes over you in hazy sonic waves.  Both the music and Jessicka's vocals are strong without veering back into heavy metal/hard rock territory.  I thought the songs were able to showcase the power of Jessicka's voice without resorting to the screaming histrionics of her previous band, Jack Off Jill (who I was also a fan of).   Scarling are a more subtle band dealing in the infinite shades of mood rather than straightforward black and white emotions but still managing to evoke a perfect bittersweetness.

When I saw them live in Newcastle they were excellent --- musically and vocally on great form, sounding even more powerful than they do on CD without ever losing their focus or sense of dark beauty that surrounds them.  Personally, I'd also love to hear Scarling perform some of Jessicka's Jack Off Jill songs live as I think it would be interesting to hear them re-interpreted in this different but equally striking style.

NOTE:   It's worth checking out their singles which contain non-album tracks which are usually excellent.  Their latest single, City Noise features a cover version of The Pixies song Wave of Mutilation and a beautiful song with a slight psychedelic feel, Staring Into The Sun.



Amanda Palmer is the lead singer of Boston duo, The Dresden Dolls.  She plays piano backed by Brian Viglione on drums.  They describe their music as "Brechtian punk cabaret" and have so far released a self-titled debut album and a collection of live recordings called A IS FOR ACCIDENT.

What made you choose the name The Dresden Dolls?  I've noticed that you use quite a bit of doll imagery in your work, not just the songs themselves but on the website (which incidentally is beautiful) and I was wondering if you collected dolls and/or what fascinates you about them?

Dolls are bizarre, fascinating things ... I see artists using them in all sorts of beautiful and disturbing ways.  They are feminine and childish artifice at its most innocent.  I've just always been fascinated by them.  I wasn't really a huge doll collector as a girl, however.  I was into stuffed animals and Legos.

Has your opinion of Brian changed since you first met him?

Yes, of course.  We've known each other intimately for four years.  Our relationship grows by the hour.  If anything, I love him more and more every single day, even if my understanding of him seems to elude me sometimes.  He's a weird one.

You and Brian have a very unique image.  What made you choose to look that way for your performances?

It wasn't a choice as much as an impulse that resonated well with the audience and stuck.   I've been a dress-up fanatic since birth, so has Brian.  It just feels natural.

There are lyrics for songs like Boston and Mandy Goes To Med School on the website that don't appear on either album.  Are they older songs that didn't make it on or newer ones that haven't been recorded yet?

Both - they're older songs that weren't considered for the album because they either didn't fit or because they weren't yet fully arranged.  Right now, it looks like both those tracks will fight for position on the next record.

I heard the song Christopher Lydon was about a Boston DJ.  If that's right (or even if it's not) I was wondering if the real Christopher Lydon has heard your song about him and what does he think of it?

Hm ... Mr. Lydon wasn't so much a DJ as a talk-show host.  He was one of the over-intellectual NPR hosts (he hosted "The Connection" which was nationally syndicated for years).  I had a fantastic crush on his voice.  I've heard through the grapevine that he heard the song and was embarrassed and flattered.  He's since been replaced by Dick Gordon, who doesn't sound one-eighth as sexy.

Your lyrics are very honest.  Do they all relate to your own personal experiences or is there an element of storytelling in songs like Truce or Bad Habit?

Ah, there's always an element of hyperbole, isn't there?  Everything is mostly autobiographical at it's source ... then it tends to take on a life of its own.

Why did you decide to do A Is For Accident as a collection of live recordings as well as doing a studio album?

We were desperate for something to release while we were waiting for the studio album to come out, so we slapped that together to have a disc to sell at shows.

I've read on your messageboard that you sometimes do cover versions live (which I'd love to hear).  Would you consider doing an album/EP of cover versions as other artists like Nick Cave or Rasputina or even Tori Amos would have done?  And to go along with that, I read that Brian was a big hair metal fan when he was younger, so if you had to cover a hair metal song what it would be?

It may well happen, although it's more likely that we'll sprinkle our future recordings with our favourite covers.  We'll see ...

You come from quite a theatrical background and you describe the band as a " Brechtian cabaret punk band."   How do you think that theatre/cabaret influence affects your work?   I also thought you seemed influenced/inspired by that whole sort of Weimar decadence/Marlene Dietrich doing cabaret thing.   I just wondered if I am correct, what is it that appeals to you so much about that period and the art that comes out of it?

Ah, all kinds of art and experimentation were just exploding in Weimar cabaret culture.  Some people were nostalgic for Haight-Ashbury in the late sixties, I just pin my fantasies a little further back.  But there was that same excitement, an "anything goes" mentality about authentic, relevant art and expansion of consciousness that attracts me like a moth to a flame.

Who are some of you favourite pianists?   Was there anyone who particularly inspired you?   I know people who learnt piano when they were younger and then gave it up because they didn't feel inspired or think it was relevant so I think it's great that you're doing piano music but it still sounds somewhat different to the more traditional female singer/songwriter stuff that people may be used to hearing.

I was very inspired by actual piano playing and piano scores that I was constantly exposed to in choir and musical rehearsals.  I was also inspired by my mother's piano playing at a very young age even though she only knew a few simple pieces.  She taught me most everything I use today.  I took some classical lessons but I barely paid attention (I regret that now, deeply).  There was one artist, Peter Jeffries, whose music I discovered in college and I remember thinking "Holy shit!   There's someone who plays and writes like I do ... sort of!  It's a miracle!"   His first two albums, Electricity and The Last Great Challenge in a Dull World are still two of my most cherished possessions --- they're tough to find and absolutely brilliant.

What are your future plans?  I read somewhere you were planning to make a DVD of videos to accompany your live shows, how is this going, what sort of videos/imagery have you come up with?  I think you are the kind of band who could really inspire some amazing imagery.

We've just finished the video for Coin-Operated Boy which is really quite bizarre and beautiful.  It was directed by our dear friend and genius film-maker Michael Pope, the director of Girl Anachronism as well.  We're also working on a Broadway musical to be staged in 2008.   The fall will bring us to Europe and we'll actually be playing our first UK show on September 20th in London (at Madame JoJos).

Punk Cabaret is Freedom !!!!



NOTE:  The Dresden Dolls went on to release two more albums and two DVDs before finally splitting up.

Friday, 16 April 2010


Inger Lorre was lead singer of an alt-rock band The Nymphs, who were contemporaries of Jane's Addiction and Hole in early 90s Los Angeles.  (It's Inger who appears on Sassy on Hole's Pretty on the Inside --- she and Courtney had a long-standing feud).  They split up after one album and the infamous pissing on the desk incident.  Inger had a brief stint with Motel Shootout and worked with the late Jeff Buckley.  She released a solo album, Transcendental Medication in 1999.

Inger is one of my heroines and inspirations.  I first discovered Inger when I read about The Nymphs in the British music press around 1991.  I was so intrigued by this woman who looked so cool in her photos, beautiful and glamorous without ever being clichéd or bland.  And I was inspired by the intelligence and integrity she displayed in her interviews and her incredible honesty that helped me feel less ashamed about certain aspects of my own life.  I loved her music --- she is one of my favourite artists.  Funnily enough, I was a fan of hers before I ever got into Jane's Addiction or Hole (2 bands she has been compared to and knew).

Her music is so darkly beautiful, with a strength to its vulnerability.  I could compare her to The Stooges, Patti Smith or Siouxsie and the Banshees but of course, Inger is her own marvellous creation.  I love the way she took the clichés of rock and reworked them from a female perspective.  That Rimbaud quote on her album really sums up her work.
(When the endless servitude of woman will be overthrown, when she will live for herself by herself, man, hitherto adominable having given her her release, she will be a poet, she also!  Women will discover some of the unknown!   Will her worlds differ from ours?  She will discover strange, unfathomable, repellent, delicious things, we shall taken them, we shall comprehend them.)

I never got to see The Nymphs play live.  About a week before I left London for good they were playing The Marquee and I was simply too fucked up to attend.  Ah, there will be other opportunities I thought but there never were.   I was heartbroken.   Over the years I kept the faith, so to speak, writing about Inger in my fanzines and telling anyone who would listen about this unsung genius of rock.  I was delighted when she released Transcendental Medication and I hope her musical career is along and fruitful one.  She seems to be such an amazing woman and if nothing else, I want to thank her for inspiring me in my own life and work and for the gift of her amazing music.

To all our fans, follow your dreams and let them make you, your own reality --- The Nymphs.

Originally published in December 2004.


Thursday, 15 April 2010


Helen Storer first found fame as the bassist in Fluffy before moving to America and joining Jack Off Jill just before they split.  She is now in a new band called Thee Heavenly Music Association along with Dave Hillis (a record producer who's worked with the likes of Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains).  Their debut album SHAPING THE INVISIBLE is still available.

How did you meet/come to work with Dave Hillis?

We met in L.A. --- Leif Garrett introduced us actually.  Dave was with Jerry Cantrell and I was with my friend, Harry.  We were at a party at a weird mansion that used to belong to Paul McCartney in the Hollywood Hills.  I had been looking in vain for musicians with similar tastes and ideals to start a new band with and we hit it off right away, on all levels.

What made you choose the name Thee Heavenly Music Association?

It's taken from a record called 'No Pussyfooting' by Brian Eno and Robert Fripp.  There's a song called 'The Heavenly Music Corporation' which I wanted to use originally but it was already taken by another band.  Everyone prefers 'Association' anyway so it turned out great.  I wanted a really long and OTT band name, in the tradition of bands like Godspeed You Black Emperor --- like I say, if listeners are too stupid to deal with that many syllables then I don't want them as fans anyway --- it's a sort of natural selection ... hehe.

THMA sounds very different to Fluffy and Jack Off Jill (2 earlier bands that you played with).  Was it a style of music that you always wanted to do or did you only decide to change style when you left Jack Off Jill?   It's interesting to me because it seems like such a change from the bands you were in before yet it works just as well.

I've always been into the kind of music I'm making now and have always written songs in that style --- I just didn't really have a forum to present them from before.  I was and still am really into 70's NY and Detroit punk like The Stooges, MC5, Patti Smith, etc., which was the premise for a lot of Fluffy's shtick.   Jack Off Jill had a more American punk/Goth sound which was a cool blend of a lot of influences.  But ultimately I was brought up in Manchester and the gloomy industrial landscapes are a large part of sculpting my own and my idols' sound --- like Joy Division, the Chameleons, Verve, New Order, the Smiths, etc.

Your lyrics are very poetic but kind of opaque and cryptic.  I was wondering who some of your favourite lyricists/writers are.

I have a really long list, of course.  I really like Peter Murphy, Nick Cave, Kate Bush, Brian Eno, Grace Slick, Patrick Fitzgerald from the band Kitchens of Distinction and I also draw inspiration from beat poetry and authors like Thomas Hardy and Lewis Carroll occasionally.  I love the way vocalists like Meredith Monk and Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins) sing without words but still manage to convey so much emotion and meaning in a song.  It's a concept I will definitely be exploring on our next record.

I think my favourite song is Alain.  Is it based on a real person and if so, what does he think of the song if he's heard it?

It is absolutely based on a real person.  Yes, I changed his/her name, however, to Alain, which is allegedly, the original name of Salvador Dali's infamous long-time transsexual girlfriend Amanda Lear.  The person in question was a dear friend of mine but does not know about the song as far as I know as I haven't seen for years.  I would love to tell her, I think she'd get pissed about it anyway though ... !

On your website it says you are working on a new EP.   Can you give us some idea about the new songs, will they be different/similar to the album?

They'll be similar but better.  The delay in getting it out is due to financial reasons.  The new record is going to have more energy and probably be a little less instrumental and dreamy, although we'll always have the same wall-of-sound guitar noise!

Do you have plans to tour the US/Europe and the UK?   What are your live shows like?  For some reason I can imagine your music working really with projected images/a lightshow but I'm probably miles off.

No, you're right.   We want to create a Velvet Underground, Jesus and Mary Chain vibe with projections and lights, kind of a moving art show with music.  We are dying to tour but have no money to right now.  Definitely both the UK and US will be covered though, once we do.

On the album you do vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards and drums on various tracks.  Which is your favourite one to do?

I think guitars although I love playing any instrument.  It depends what song --- it was really fun playing Mo Tucker style drums on Alain because it was such a tribal, basic beat.

There are some references to angels in your songs and a general kind of otherworldly feel to your music.  Do you think angels actually exist and have you ever seen one?

I don't know about the standard definition of angels but I have certainly met a few people who live their lives in a very angelic way.  I really like the film "Wings of Desire" which is about angels on earth and a lot of "Shaping The Invisible" is about very pure innocent people who I've watched become corrupted by life, people and chemicals, especially in Los Angeles (the city of lost angels ...).

I read that you and Jessicka from Scarling (and Harry?) were working on a project together, a kind of female supergroup.  Will you be doing any more of this?  Will you release any of the stuff you've worked on so far even if it's just online as MP3s?

Yeah, one day it'll happen!   There are so many musicians in our circle of friends that it seems like a shame not to --- Harry, Nadja Peulen, Sam Maloney, Jessicka, Anna and Martina from Drain etc.  I promise we'll release it as soon as we do it!

You were a member of Jack Off Jill for a time, one of my favourite ever bands.  They were such a brilliant band who the fans loved and they seem to be gaining more and more fans all the time but why do you think Jack Off Jill didn't achieve more mainstream success at the time?  (because I really thought JOJ were going to be as big as Hole or Marilyn Manson).   Do you think it was because Jessicka was a woman and didn't fit the conventional beauty mould?  I'm pleased to see more and more people getting into the band even though you've now split up and I hope Scarling is successful.

It seems to me that it's hard for the mainstream to cope with a female singer who acts in a very dramatically offensive way, especially when visually she is clearly uninterested in being attractive to the 'stereotypical' male eye.  What is astounding to me is how record labels can apparently put blinkers up to the record and merch sales and giant fan-base of a band, simply because of their narrow-minded refusal to be the first to dare break the mould on this issue.  People can't deal with a woman acting non-sexually on stage --- they're too used to women being objects that are easy on the eye, to deal with seeing Jessicka razor-blade her chest open in front of them!  I hope Scarling do really well though.

You were also in Fluffy who I happen to think were a great band and very under-rated.  I got your album, Black Eye, a couple of years ago and I was really surprised at how good it was after some of the bad press I'd read.  Are you still in touch with any of the other girls from Fluffy?

The problem with Fluffy was that we were young, skinny and cute, through no fault of our own, but it led people to either believe we were put together by a man or be flat-out jealous and bitchy about us.  It was a weird kind of sexism to deal with --- people were amazed when they saw us play live.  The press in England were vicious and destroyed our reputation by fabricating a story that we were 'posh' which is a real killer to a punk rock band in England.  We just liked the NY Dolls and thought we were being post-feminist by wearing mini-skirts but I think, if you are a woman in a position of 'too much' power and also flaunting your sexuality you are almost guaranteed a backlash, unfortunately.   Bridget, Angie and I talk all the time.  I always see them when I visit London.


Wednesday, 14 April 2010


The Priscillas are an all-girl 4 piece band based in London who have already supported the likes of The Rezillos and The 5,6,7,8s.   Their bassist, Kate, kindly sent me a demo CD of some of their songs.  They're due to release their debut single soon and are working on an album.

The first thing you notice about their songs is how incredibly catchy and exuberant they are.  It only takes a couple of minutes for songs like All My Friends Are Zombies to lodge in your brain so strongly that it would take a lobotomy to remove them.  (And The Priscillas have a song about brain surgery too).   They have a kind of pop-punk approach with garage band influences similar to The B-52s or maybe a tougher version of The Go-Gos.   To be successful at those types of songs looks deceptively simple.  But if you're too "pop" then your songs will sound bland and clichéd but if they're too "alternative", they'll sound messy and you'll alienate most people --- but when this music works it produces some of the best pop songs.  The Priscillas seem to have found the perfect balance --- a marriage of The Ramones guitar-driven garage rock and Phil Spector's girl group harmonies.

Their lead singer, Jen has a strong voice that comes through without being overpowered by the strong and accomplished backing music or sounding harsh and strident.   Their hard-edged garage rock sound is softened around the edges by Shangri-Las style backing vocals and handclaps to produce infectious numbers like Gonna Rip Your Photograph.  I have heard good reports of their live performances which involve beehive wigs and capes and raucous music performed by the baddest girl group in town. 
NOTE:   Since writing this review, the band have had a couple of personnel changes and released their debut album.

Originally published in December 2004.


L.W.E.D. are a London-based band who are beginning to gather rave reviews for their haunting music.  Their lead singer, Andrea, kindly sent me a copy of this demo album (which I believe was recorded in 2002).

On some songs, Andrea's voice sounds almost impossibly fragile and delicate and is accompanied by only the sparsest of electronic backings, producing an unsettling effect.   Other songs such as Demon in the Wheels have a fuller sound and a stronger vocal performance echoing bands like Queen Adreena.  The stand-out track has to be Horsemilk with its infectious tune balanced by Andrea's almost ethereal vocals.

The band have avoided over-production or drowning out the vocals (2 things which can occur in this genre) to produce perfectly balanced darkwave music that really is as pure and disturbing as a fresh snow fall over an inner city.  This mood of unsettling purity is echoed in their CD packaging which features an all-white CD cover with a razorblade taped to it.   (The band did actually perform at a benefit to raise awareness of self harm).

I've heard good reports of their live gigs and Andrea has an incredibly striking image.  She often wears only torn underwear or boned corsets that further emphasise her extreme thinness --- once again, this image of the distressed Victorian madwoman does remind me of Katie Jane Garside of Queen Adreena.  Although their name and image have led to L.W.E.D. being accused of being a freak show, they should not be dismissed so lightly.  Andrea has a brilliant voice which is showcased by some great electronic music to produce an unique sound.

NOTE:  The band released their debut EP, "White Like Snow" on Something To Listen To Records and they also supported the likes of Psychic TV and Whitehouse.  The band also changed their name to Colt.

Originally published in December 2004.


The Dresden Dolls are a Boston based duo --- Amanda Palmer on vocals and piano and Brian Viglione on drums.  They have a stunning image wearing white face make-up and old style clothes and their website alone is an absolute work of art, based around a kind of old Victorian dolls' house theme.  They describe their music as "Brechtian punk cabaret" but they are far from being some sort of kitsch novelty act.

Amanda writes some of the best lyrics I've ever seen and part of her genius is that although her lyrics are quite 'wordy' and literate, she can still match them to a 'punk' sound without sounding pretentious or forced.  Actually, Girl Anachronism is probably the closest to a punk tune with its feeling of chaos evoking the madness of the narrator.  The rest of the songs are more traditional piano based numbers featuring a variety of tempo changes and Amanda's expressive voice which echoes the emotionally expansive style of Tori Amos.  Amanda covers similar subjects like self harm and child abuse to other 'confessional' singers like Tori or Fiona Apple.  However, her black humour and raw honesty seem closer to artists like PJ Harvey.

Their songs are perfectly constructed with Brian's drumming subtly supporting and showcasing Amanda's more demonstrative piano playing and vocals.   Their style proves that you don't need to scream or have a heavy metal backing track to be able to convey the deepest and most heartfelt emotions.  Their music is as beautiful and disturbing as their name, Dresden Dolls, suggests.

Truce, in particular, is an outstanding track.  It took me a couple of listens to fully appreciate it because of the scope of the song.  It's an epic on the scale of November Rain but without being so overblown so it actually becomes ten times more effective.   It starts with a whisper and ends with a scream and in between it takes in all the conflicting emotions the end of a relationship can trigger using the imagery of terrorism and diplomacy to convey feelings of hurt, revenge, resignation, sadness and pain.   I think it is an absolute masterpiece although having said that, there are many other outstanding tracks on this album like Good Day or Bad Habit.  The Dresden Dolls are a unique band with the talent to fulfil their creative vision and always leave you wanting more.

NOTE:   Some later versions of this album (including the UK release) feature the video for Girl Anachronism which is well worth seeing for its beautiful deranged genius.

Originally published in December 2004.


When I discovered The Dresden Dolls I fell in love with them so much that I made it my mission to get a copy of their limited edition live album, A IS FOR ACCIDENT, which has now been reissued.  There are 10 songs on the album (3 of which appear on the studio album --- Missed Me, Coin Operated Boy and Truce).   In some ways, this isn't a conventional 'live' album as most of the songs aren't featured on the studio album.  However, this doesn't make them second rate or works in progress --- the songs on this album are not mere curiousities but easily the equal of their more polished, studio-produced cousins.  Although there isn't much tangible evidence to show these tracks were recorded live, there is an indefinable atmosphere to them.   It evokes imagery of world-weary cabaret performers in sleazy nightclubs.

Amanda's songs depict powerful emotions and all the bittersweet ennui of a life of disappointments without resorting to the conventional tools of the angry and disaffected.   I guess you sort of expect lyrics like this to go along with a 'rock' (or even 'punk') performance --- that is to say, much heavier music and screaming vocals.  But the genius of The Dresden Dolls is that they have re-invented the genre by marrying the raw honesty of alternative music's lyrics to the musical sophistication of piano-based cabaret.  So Amanda doesn't have to raise her voice to get her point across.

"Christopher Lydon" features a vocal that will break your heart as Amanda sings about her unrequited love for a talkshow DJ.   "Glass Slipper" starts off quietly and builds up to a devastating climax that encapsulates the regrets and reproaches behind a life that hasn't quite lived up to its potential.  "Bank of Boston Beauty Queen" is a more upbeat and jaunty number, full of black humour and picturesque lyrics.  I would probably still say the studio album is the best introduction to the band as I think it showcases a wider diversity of styles but this album is certainly worth looking out for.

How many wishes do I still have left to fix the way it ends?
How many princes will it take to put a girl like this back together again?
How many instances can you point out where I was less than kind?
How many happy endings do you need to change your fucking mind?
And how much time do we have left before its midnight
And you see that I was never the right size?

Originally published in December 2004.


This is a collection of Jack Off Jill's early recordings with their original line-up from the period 1992 - 1996.  The songs were previously only available on limited edition cassette only releases that were really hard to get hold of especially for fans outside the USA.  So it's great that these songs have all had a proper release at last.  Most of these songs appeared on the unofficial bootleg called "Hard Rock Queens".  The main difference between the two is that Hard Rock Queens has only 18 tracks but it does have 2 tracks not on the official compilation --- Testicle Football and Cockroach Waltz.  Humid Teenage Mediocrity has 22 tracks as it features demo versions of 9 tracks off their debut album, "Sexless Demons and Scars" (so it's almost like getting 2 albums for the price of 1).

Sometimes a band's early songs don't quite live up to their fully realised, more well-known work but that isn't the case here.  All the songs are as good as their later stuff with the same aggressive metal tunes and disturbing imagery.  Jessicka's voice alternates between a little girl whisper and a banshee's scream.  The songs don't have that half finished, weak sound of a lot of demos instead they're powerful hits of catchy rock music.  Most of the songs were produced by Marilyn Manson and he contributed the liner notes where he talks of his friendship with Jessicka.  There's also some photos of the early band line-up.  This is a great introduction to the band and an essential purchase for any Jack Off Jill fans.  It's a testament to how good this band were that they are still gaining devoted fans even several years after they split up.  They still have a website at that has information on all their releases and band members.

--- Jessicka came off like a Goth-rock Paula Abdul who borrowed some of her look from the then-trendy riot grrls and threw in a dash of blood, glitter, morbid humour, little girl charm and Boy-George-meets-Lydia-Lunch, making it her signature kinder Goth look all her own.  (Marilyn Manson from the liner notes).

Originally published in December 2004.

NOTE:  This review refers to the UK release of the CD.  The American version has different artwork and 3 extra tracks.


Scarling can be seen as continuation of the more melodic songs on Jack Off Jill's second album like Vivica and Strawberry Gashes.  The songs are more subtle and lyrical than the extreme performances of Jack Off Jill.  Because Scarling's songs seem more introspective and less immediate than those of Jessicka's former band, I think it does take a while to appreciate them.  However, this is the type of album that really grows on you.  There are only 7 tracks on the album so I think of it more as taster of what's to come as there have been some personnel changes within Scarling, so maybe now they've got a solid line-up they will come on more.  The album artwork features more images by the artist Mark Ryden plus a couple of photos of the band.  It was a shame they didn't print any of the lyrics as I love Jessicka's way with words.

The songs manage to have quite a full sound without seeming overdone and there is still plenty of variety in Jessicka's vocal performances.   Jessicka's bittersweet vocals are complimented by beautiful music that's as dark and soft as black velvet.   The music and imagery is picturesquely twisted and gothic with a small g with tributes to the actor Crispin Glover and dark love-songs like Baby Dracula and Alexander the Burn Victim.  Scarling seem to have gone for a more alternative/indie sound like Sonic Youth or Lush rather than the hard rock/metal stylings of Jack Off Jill.   In some ways then, this album is a good gentle introduction to the work of Jessicka.  I think this album has been a great introduction to Scarling and I'm really looking forward to seeing how they develop.  It's also worth looking out for their CD single of Band Aid Covers The Bullethole as it features an absolutely stunning version of Radiohead's Creep.

Originally published in December 2004.

NOTE:  I know that technically the band name is spelt scarling.  (i.e. all lower case with a full stop at the end) but if I try and write it like that it sends my spellcheck/formatting crazy.


After the break-up of Hole, it was several years and a few false starts (including the ill-fated Bastard project) before Courtney Love released her first solo album.  It was supposed to be her finest moment but unfortunately, it could well prove to be her swan song.  It received mixed reviews and didn't sell well as her music began to take a secondary place to the dramas in her personal life.  Of course, Courtney has always been a larger-than-life figure but now, it seemed she was reduced to a tabloid freakshow on a par with the Michael Jacksons of the world.  I'm not denying she is probably a difficult woman who has made mistakes but just compare the media coverage of Pete Doherty (a man who arguably had similar problems of drug abuse, erratic behaviour and difficult relationships) to that of Courtney's.  It's ironic that she's been villified and written off for the very things that the music journalists have applauded in male stars like Pete Doherty.

But leaving aside all the issues of her personality and behaviour, I have to admit I love this album.  It's my favourite one of her albums and at the moment, it's one of my favourite albums of all time, however perverse that may sound.   I love the songs on it --- catchy rock numbers with an edge.  She has managed to combine the polished sophistication of Celebrity Skin with the emotional rawness of earlier albums like Pretty On the Inside helped by co-writers like Linda Perry and Patty Schemel.  Although she didn't have a permanent band backing her on all the songs, I didn't feel like there was a lack of cohesion in the overall sound.  Having said that, this album does tail off towards the second half (rather like Celebrity Skin) but earlier songs like Almost Golden and Mono more than make up for that.

Courtney can still come up with some great lyrics and when the music works, it's nothing short of stunning.  The artwork (by Olivia) is also beautiful --- although my one complaint is the text in the CD booklet is practically impossible to read.  The US and European versions of the CD both have slightly different lyrics on some songs.  (I think the one released in the USA is the "clean" one).   And then the Japanese version has completely different artwork and an extra track, Fly --- personally, I thought it was average and could have been replaced by something better.

Courtney has been compared to Marianne Faithfull.  At one time, her drug addiction saw her reach the depths and even though she'd been written off by the industry she released Broken English, now hailed as a classic.  I really hope, that in time, America's Sweetheart will be rediscovered as a classic because it doesn't deserve to be forgotten.

Originally published in December 2004.


T.H.M.A. consist of Helen Storer (who used to play bass for Fluffy and Jack Off Jill) and Dave Hillis (a record producer best known for his work with grunge bands like Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains).   However, this album is totally unlike their previous work.
It features Helen's hypnotic vocals layered over droning feedback-drenched guitar music that sounds utterly mesmerising and blissful.  It's reminiscent of the psychedelic wall of sound approach of bands like the Jesus and Mary Chain or the Velvet Underground but without their darker harsher edges.  Helen's cryptic lyrics add to the otherworldly feel and create s the perfect ambient comedown music.

My favourite track is Alain where Helen's laidback sensual vocals bleed into a thick and fuzzy guitar track that's as addictive as the cocaine and lemonade mixture she sings of.  It sounds like a heavier version of Mazzy Star and deserves to be a huge hit.

NOTE:  The band signed to Rehash Records who released a remastered version of Shaping the Invisible in October 2004 featuring an extra track (a cover version of Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill).

Originally published in December 2004.


Rasputina also released this EP at the start of 2003.  It features 3 remixes of State Fair and 2 remixes of Sweet Water Kill (2 album tracks from Cabin Fever) plus another straightforward version of AntiqueHighHeelRedDollShoes.  However, what saves the EP from being redundant is a CD-ROM video of a live performance of My Orphanage which is especially good for those who live outside the USA and haven't had the chance to see Rasputina live.   (It would be great if they would release an official DVD sometime.)    There's also a quite frankly astonishing version of Belle & Sebastian's Fox in the Snow which you'll either love or hate.  Although this is a good EP, I think it's more for devoted Rasputina fans rather than those looking for an introduction to the band.

Originally published in December 2004.


This is a reissued version of a limited edition EP originally available through Rasputina's website.   It features 7 cover versions.   The track listing has been slightly changed from the original EP and 2 new songs have been added.  There's a version of Creedence Clearwater Revival's Bad Moon Rising that I wasn't that keen on plus a great version of Pat Benatar's Fire and Ice that sounds very striking and unusual.  I wish they'd recorded their versions of Baby's Got Back and We're Not Gonna Take It though as I've heard a live bootleg of them and they sound awesome.  There's also their sublimely beautiful version of Wish You Were Here (originally by Pink Floyd) and an amazing version of Led Zeppelin's Rock and Roll that goes for feminine wiles and seductive manipulation instead of the original traditional straightforward male rock music.  It's a total surprise and unlike anything I could have imagined.

Rasputina's unique sound means these cover versions sound refreshingly different without ever becoming some kind of novelty item.  This album acts as either a great introduction to their stunning sound or a good addition to any Rasputina collection.

Originally published December 2004.


Frustration Plantation is the 4th studio album from the cello-rock ensemble, Rasputina.  This album saw another change of personnel as founder member Melora Creager was joined by Zoe Keating on cello and vocals and Rasputina's first male member, Jonathon TeBeest on drums and percussion.  Limited editions of the album came with a bonus disc, Poor Relations in the Shed Out Back.  It featured 9 tracks (4 of which were remixes of album tracks) including some previously unreleased tracks.   It's a nice little extra that's worth looking out for.  The CD packaging is beautifully laid out continuing with the old fashioned themes that Rasputina are known for but with a particular pioneer/Old West theme.

Rasputina distort and sample their cello music to create a cross between more traditional classical music and alternative/Goth music.  Each of their albums seems to showcase a different aspect of their sound --- in this case, the similarity between their music and traditional folk songs seems particularly highlighted.  The songs come across as timeless rather than old fashioned and there are some fantastically catchy numbers like The Mayor and High on Life.   Some of the songs have a slightly sharper edge than the laidback ambient feel of some of the tracks on Cabin Fever.   Rasputina are an amazing band with a distinctive sound that is still being explored and reinvented even after 4 albums.   This album isn't quite as instantly catchy as Cabin Fever but it's worth persevering with it because once you finally get it, you'll wonder how you ever lived without the weird and wonderful music of Rasputina.

Originally published in December 2004.

Issue 1

Issue 1 of PussyRock came out in December 2004 and was an A4 zine of about 40 pages, photocopied in B + W.    The cover was a still of Amanda Palmer from the video for Girl Anachronism by The Dresden Dolls.
The print version is now sold out.

In the introduction I said, "Welcome to the first issue of PUSSY ROCK.   Over the past 10 years, I've written about many musicians in my different fanzines --- from the famous to the obscure.  I decided it was time to do another music zine and to base it around the theme of female musicians (and the "female" experience of being a fan).

This isn't intended to be male bashing.  Many of my favourite bands and singers are male but I figure most of them already have enough coverage elsewhere whilst for one reason or another, a lot of my favourite female artists don't get as much recognition.  Plus it makes it easier to concentrate on one subject area.  So this fanzine is about female musicians or a female viewpoint.  Of course, things are never cut and dried and many of the bands I talk about also feature male musicians but it's the women I choose to focus on and celebrate."

It included interviews with Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls, Hellen Storer of Thee Heavenly Music Association, The Priscillas and Little Whores on the Prairie (by Shelly).
Plus articles on Honey Bane, Inger Lorre, The Lunachicks (by Sophia), Times Square (the movie), Siouxsie and the Banshees (by Cazz Blase) and Japanese/Chinese/Korean girl bands (by Cazz Blase).
Plus reviews of Rasputina, Scarling, Jack Off Jill, Roxy Saint (including live photos), Thee Heavenly Music Association, Courtney Love, Living With Eating Disorders, The Dresden Dolls (including live photos) and The Priscillas.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


This blog is intended to be an archive for some of the reviews/interviews/articles that appeared in my fanzine PussyRock.

I expect it to take several months to put all this content online so please bear with me while I do this.

A lot of the items mentioned on here are still available from Amazon/on Ebay but if you choose not to use Amazon, there are many other independent sellers out there who may offer the items listed on here (a lot of the bands mentioned on here are on or you can try checking the band's individual website for details of how to order from them directly).