Reviewed: April 2021
Released: 2021 / Cherry Red/ Hear No Evil
Rating: 4.5 / 5
It must have been such an exciting time to be a heavy music fan in Los Angeles in the 80’s. I only got to live through it vicariously. It was a crowded and competitive environment and everyone tried to carve out their own slightly unique style and sound. You had the heavy bands like WA.S.P., Armoured Saint, Lizzy Borden and Malice. On the other end of the scale you had glamorous bands like Poison and Warrant. Thrash was big, people often forget that three of the ‘big four’ of thrash bands, Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth were formed in L.A. Motley Crue tried to do it all changing every album along the way. Veteran bands founded in the 70’s like Dokken, Ratt, Quiet Riot and Van Halen were still there and even Ozzy and Dio moved to L.A.!
Somewhere in the middle of all that mess was a small sub-set of bands, ones who paid musical homage to Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones, not quite glam, not quite Metal, but had that boozy, rock n’ roll swagger…bands like Guns n’ Roses, Jetboy and Faster Pussycast.
Faster Pussycat managed to carve out a little niche for themselves and get signed to a major label and churn out a few well-received albums in fairly rapid succession. Now for the first time in many years, these first albums are available again in a nice little box-set called BABYLON: THE ELEKTRA YEARS 1987-1992.
Hosued in a nice purple clam-shell box this four-CD set collects everything we need to know about the bands major label run. All three studio albums, an obscure EP (which as a side note, I found on CD years later) and a few bonus tracks. There is a fold-out poster with album credits and lots of photos but not too much more. The albums are housed in cardboard sleeves with the original art intact.
The band were an interesting case study in evolution. After their decent five-year run on Elektra, the band struggled through addiction and adversity, with various EP’s, remix albums, and flirtations with goth, industrial, techno and at least 100 members passing through the band. However, we are here to talk about the highlights, those first three albums.
The self-titled debut was a fun and inspired slice of gutter-level Hard Rock that epitomized the best (and worst) of the L.A. street scene. Taime’s down’s unique voice and vocal delivery were a highlight to be sure. His quirky vocals and lyrics were infused with a sleazy sense of humour. The album spawned some bigger hit singles, the ones you may remember, ‘Don’t Change That Song’, ‘Bathroom Wall’ and the weird ‘Babylon’ which had hints of rap and scratching!
Up next was a slightly more, dare we say ‘mature’ effort, which can be the kiss of death for some party bands but with WAKE ME WHEN IT’S OVER the band pulled it off. Powered by a surprisingly decent ballad ‘House Of Pain’ and a couple of fun and inspired rockers ‘Poison Ivy’ and ‘Tattoo’ the album had legs to outperform it’s predecessor and hit the Top 40 and go Gold in the US. It also hinted at some of that dreaded maturity with tracks like the low-key and under-stated, ‘Arizona Indian Doll’ and the title track running almost seven minutes long, a brave choice to start the album when other more predictable choices were available. It was another brave choice to end the album with a quiet, introspective tune, ‘Please Dear’ with world-weary lyrics. This could have been a Guns ‘N Roses ballad on any given day.
By 1992 the shine had left L.A. and the bands third album, a noble, even valiant effort may have been hampered by the musical climate. Even so, WHIPPED! still stands as one of, if not my favourite, Faster Pussycat album. It ranges from stand-up rockers like ‘Jack The Bastard’ over to the tongue-in-cheek fun of ‘Big Dictionary’ to outright strangeness of ‘Cat Bash’ (which seems to be a collection of angry messages left on the bands answering machine) and ‘Loose Booty’. Lead off track, ‘Nonstop to Nowhere’ while a bit mellow for an opener, (not unlike the last album) is a classic. Again another mid-tempo, but well-written, seven-minute song opening the album!
While the first two albums in this set did not have any bonus material, the recording sessions for WHIPPED! yielded three extra tunes included here as bonus tracks. ‘Too Tight’ and ‘Charge Me Up’ are decent enough. The last track has it’s own little story. Back in 1990 Elektra did a 40th anniversary two-CD collection called RUBAIYAT, which loosely translated from Persian is ‘quatrain’. Most rock/Metal people remember this compilation for the inclusion of Queen and Metallica. However Faster Pussycat also made the cut! They did a neat version of the Carly Simons smash hit, ‘You’re So Vain’. It was a mild success and they even shot a video for it!
Lastly the EP LIVE AND RARE seems more like a marketing thing at the time to try to capitalize on the success of the band rather than a sincere effort to offer new material. However, it was only released in Japan! It is actually quite cool that we have it included here in this boxset. The first song of the six, is a re-mix of ‘Bathroom Wall’ but to be honest I can’t hear any difference. We get two edits, (Poison Ivy and House Of Pain) which are useless on any given day of the week. Who wants a butchered, shorter version of a good song? We get three scrappy live tracks but it doesn’t say when or where they were recorded. I pulled out my original copy and it doesn’t say in there either, unless it is in the Japanese language insert. The source of these three live songs continues to be a mystery to me and will haunt me until my dying day. Honest. The mere existence of these live tracks makes me think/hope that one day we could see a classic era live album be released? We know the whole concert is sitting in a vault somewhere, bands don’t just live record one or two songs. The band only released an underwhelming, later-era live album in 2009 so we are well overdue for a good Faster Pussycat live album.
In the final analysis we get no new, unreleased material but we do get nine quite rare tracks, which should satisfy the fans and make this set well worth buying. Cherry Red / Hear No Evil has really re-capture that era and helped kept the memory alive with similar box-sets by Ratt, White Lion, Bullet Boys and now Faster Pussycat gets the royal treatment as well.
CD1: FASTER PUSSYCAT
Don’t Change That Song
No Room For Emotion
Shooting You Down
City Has No Heart
Ship Rolls In
Bottle In Front Of Me
CD2: WAKE ME WHEN IT’S OVER
Where There’s A Whip, There’s A Way
House Of Pain
Slip Of The Tongue
Ain’t No Way Around It
Arizona Indian Doll
CD3: LIVE AND RARE
Slip Of The Tongue
House Of Pain
Nonstop To Nowhere
The Body Thief
Jack The Bastard
Madam Ruby’s Love Boutique
Only Way Out
Maid In Wonderland
Out With A Bang
Nonstop To Nowhere (CHR Version)
Charge Me Up
You’re So Vain