By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
FASTER PUSSYCAT – WAKE ME WHEN IT’S OVER (1989)
I swear if you had asked me to name any Faster Pussycat songs other than “Bathroom Wall” from their first album and “House of Pain” from this album, I wouldn’t have been able to come up with an answer.
For me, Faster Pussycat was just a band that I was never all that interested in. Other than those two songs, I never felt the urge to delve further into their back catalog. And this is with having a friend who thinks singer Taime Downe is like the second coming or something.
So when I pulled Wake Me When It’s Over out of the Big Box of Cassettes, I couldn’t help but think that this could end up being a slog of an album for me to get through and then turn around and write about.
You could’ve knocked me over with a feather after I finished listening to the album however because I was really quite taken with the majority of what I heard. And I realized that I actually did know a couple of other songs without even realizing it.
The band’s second album found their sound seemingly becoming more blues rock based as opposed to the more straight up glam sound of their debut record. And though I never paid much attention to it in the past, I found that this new kind of sound was a killer road for them to take.
The album features twelve songs on it and nine of them are straight out foot to the floor rockers. Of course, as I said before, the album is best remembered for the hit ballad “House Of Pain”. And as I thought about it, I think the ballad is kind of why I never really got into the band. Or at least in part. I just didn’t like the vocal on the track. It struck me then and it still kind of strikes me now as being entirely too “whiny” in the execution of the vocal performance. I know that power ballads were a requirement and all, but this one just doesn’t sit well with me at all. The album also closes with another ballad, “Please Dear”, which is only marginally better.
But I found that when the band is just sending out one six string riff and pounding rhythm to the heart after another, this is a powerfully cool sounding collection of tunes.
The song “Where There’s A Whip, There’s A Way” is probably a theme song for any number of BDSM themed parties these days but listening to it straight out got the album off to a great start. The song “Little Dove” was also quite the cool little rocker too.
Those two songs I mentioned that it turned out I did know despite my failure to remember them were “Poison Ivy” and “Tattoo”. As each of the two tracks played, I almost immediately remembered them and could even hear myself humming the music in my head along with the tape. And I could actually remember the chorus to each song, which really surprised me.
Other than drummer Mark Michals, the band members each had at least one co-writing credit for the songs on the album. In varying combinations it was Downe and guitarists Brent Muscat and Greg Steele who did the heaviest lifting in the writing though.
The best part of the album was discovering new-to-me tracks like “Slip of the Tongue”, which I found to be one of the best tracks and probably a song that those of us who have to this day missed out on the band would point to as an “undiscovered gem”.
I’m not sure that I was totally sold on the song “Arizona Indian Doll” but it was rather intriguing nonetheless. Instead of a blues rock foundation, this one is more of a swampy bluesy song that delivers a much slower pace and lighter tone than all the other rock tracks. It takes a little bit of work to really get into the song so I’m not quite sure how to take it even as I write this article. But it does make an impression, so it can’t be that bad!
Okay, I admit it! I seem to have really missed the boat on this particular Faster Pussycat album. Taken on its own merits, this is a stunningly entertaining release. It might not fuel my desire to take in the entire discography of the band, but Wake Me When It’s Over has officially woken me up to the possibility that I may need to do more to familiarize myself with the band’s music to have a better formed opinion about them.
NOTES OF INTEREST: Drummer Mark Michals was fired from the band during the supporting tour for Wake Me When It’s Over. Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali filled in to play the rest of the dates.
The band broke up in 1993 but got back together in 2001. The reunion tour saw guitarist Greg Steele leave the band halfway through the concert trek and his place was temporarily filled by L.A. Guns guitarist Tracii Guns.
The video for “House of Pain” was directed by the now quite famous movie director Michael Bay.