Graded on a Curve:
Pussy Galore,
Sampler

To fully comprehend the superstars of sleaze Pussy Galore you must listen to their 1986 homage to/destruction of the Rolling Stones’ 1972 masterpiece Exile on Main Street. Sloppy to the point of incoherence, their cassette-only desecration is guaranteed to either inspire disgust or disdain in just about everybody but people who enjoy half-assed first takes, a lack of interest in how to play much less tune musical instruments, and piss-taking in general. Pussy Galore brought a breath of fresh stench to the Capitol City music scene in the mid-1980s, which was then in the grips of the New Puritanism of the straightedge crowd. When it came to filthy morals, Pussy Galore were Caligula.

Folks talk about bands that didn’t set a premium on musical competence, but Pussy Galore went out of their way to set the musical bar so low a turtle could jump it. Their studio LPs make The Stooges’ “Loose” sound like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. When it comes to instrumental mastery, they made Sid Vicious sound like Jaco Pastorius.

But the degenerates who attended their shows loved them for it, although it should be kept in mind that said fans were of the sort who wrote off The Cramps as slick professionals playing ho-hum retro-rockabilly. I’ve heard Pussy Galore described as a garage band but that’s bullshit—set them down in a garage and they’d torch it. I’ve also heard them described as noise rock band, but in my universe noise rock is produced only by bands in the Midwest who would never be caught dead living in New York City.

1998’s live Sampler is a dirtball classic—the sound is sloppy, the needle stays in the red, the fuzz levels make the Stones’ Exile on Main Street sound like a two million dollar production, and Jon Spencer’s vocals seem to be coming through a $25 guitar amp somebody tossed out a fourth-floor window. And Neil Hagerty’s lead guitar makes Ron Asheton’s sound crystal clear.

This is scunge of the highest order, and in a perfect universe a record label PR hack would have issued a promo along the lines of, “An exciting new release featuring a live performance by America’s new Rolling Stones! If you thought the New York Dolls made up for their lack of musical chops with sheer charisma, you’ll want to check out Pussy Galore!” Alas we live in a world where chaotic punk slop is devalued by snobby types who place undue value on stupid stuff like production values.

If forced I would describe Pussy Galore as the slimeball offspring of the Stones and The Stooges, with the exception that nobody expected them to go any further than filthy clubs with rats in the toilets. And they didn’t, because they had a hard time drumming up people to see them. Small wonder they ultimately splintered into Jon Spencer’s Blues Explosion and Boss Hog. They must have decided they couldn’t sink any lower and reluctantly, leaving them with nowhere to go but up. That or they were fucking with our heads all along. Maybe they were a slumming Yes, fed up with filling arenas and making tycoon money.

Warning to listeners—someone went to the trouble of deleting every expletive on the LP’s opening track “Understand Me.” Could have been the band, out for laughs. Or maybe it was the bonehead ploy of a prospective label trying to get the song some college radio airplay. Or perhaps it was a sinister ploy of the roundheads in DC, looking to take revenge on the Peaches of Immortality (featuring one-time Pussy Galore member Julia Cafritz) classic “Fuck Ian MacKaye.” If so, it didn’t work. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s you can’t keep a band of laughing scumbags down.

DEGRADED ON A CURVE:
A

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