Cat On The Wall: Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons "Exercise Your Demons"
One has to admit I have discovered the band I am to write about with literally no knowledge of them. I found out about them reading the line up for Whitby Gothic Weekend, the premiere event in the United Kingdom for all in an alternative culture, whether goth, punk, metalhead…you get the idea.
Indeed, day one of the two day event seems to find basis in the more active side of things, my favourite musician, gothic folk artist Voltaire being the main attraction, joined by long-running-goth-rock-musicians Zombina and the Skeletones, somewhat forgotten Psychedelic rock tribute artists Doctor and the Medics (known for a cover of ‘Spirit in the Sky’ during the 1980s that catapulted them to Top of the Pop fame) and a band I have never heard of but instantly had interest in, Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons.
They sound like a little-known group of country hicks producing some kind of perverted drunken Western guitar music, but as a matter of fact they seem to span this while remaining somewhat anchored in the London based punk scene, full to the brim with dirty rock and roll and more than a touch of old fashioned sleaze.
The first thing about them that’ll strike you is the band members. We have ‘Dirty Jake‘, whom looks like a Tennessee greaser, Filfy Antz, whom looks like someone who’s spent the last fifteen years running from the law, wanted in seven countries for stabbing the same poor geezer in the chest for no real reason, and Pussycat herself. Now…this is a bit bizarre for a frontlady, but Puss is a young lady with her hair brushed into cat ears, with leopard print (or stripes) on her forehead, a suspiciously big voice with an even more suspicious amount of talent with both music, fashion design and jumping on people, amplifiers, possibly record executives…all with gigantic biker boots with more straps than a patient at bedlam.
It’d be fair to say we’re not in the land of a typical Basingstoke homebrew group. Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons are something special.
In fact, with due respect to others around the scene (although admittedly I don’t know much of the matter) these folks have a sincerely strong polish to them! Their website is easy to access and navigate, their logo is instantly recognisable, perfect for t-shirts (no doubt to the aforementioned suspicious talent from Ms Johnson) and the band has the makings of a genuinely iconic brand. Their music is well mixed, their shows are intimate and apparently they have a remarkably incendiary feel when it comes to them taking over a stage. They’ve gained quite the reputation (perhaps notoriety) for their shows and their studio material looks set to keep it up.
Their first studio album, Exercise your Demons, is an incredibly solid affair.
Trouble With The Devil‘, the band’s first single, does a lot for them – with a simple, incredibly catchy riff, strong, loud vocals with plenty of ‘umph’, it’s ultimately an excellent track. It has a certain undertone of sex appeal, Puss herself adding the odd gasp or breath of air which adds a world to the band’s style. Speaking of a doomed relationship with Beelzebub himself, we learn of his rather poor treatment of women and her own anger on the matter. Puss claims all of the tracks they perform are based on real life, so one can’t help but wonder about her relationship history…
The band’s lyrics have a humour to them, but not once do they move towards the novelty or ‘comedy’ style of music, instead opting for a mix of sleaze, rock and roll, punk, blues, garage and, frankly, whatever else they fancy throwing in.
Of peculiar note is Puss’s sexual ode to pizza, Orgasmic Pizza, a track that’s difficult to dislike purely for the theme it carries – we like pizza, and it tastes good. It’s a strange little track, relatively slow compared to the tracks before it, with moaning, gasping and shouting about the beauty of everybody’s favourite Italian foodstuff. The instruments remain as thoroughly catchy and full as ever, producing something that sounds somewhat like Johnny Cash picking up an electrical guitar after a night of listening to Motorhead. Towards the middle, he’s taken something, and we get a sudden influx of developing speed as the pizza consumption turns into a bit of a food orgy. It’s a beautifully simple theme for a punk track but by god, I can relate. I do enjoy pizza. Everybody does. And this song is a nice touch for anybody with that ever-odious relationship.
Following this is a song about the humble Daddy Long Legs or crane fly, about how annoying it is – and perhaps is one of Puss’s phobias, being a ‘freak of nature’ or a ‘spider with wings‘, shouting at the insect, cursing it for all of its characteristics. The song is angry and unflinching. We even get a pause after telling the insect to ‘shoo’ – followed by calling it a motherfucker. Marvellous.
We have one of the most angry tracks, Self Destruction is Imminent, which seems to deal with a split, but all the same very infuriated, personality – Puss calling out her partner about not calling, avoiding her…all quietly composed until she screams on he’s a motherfucking asshole. Over and over again. It’s all very turbulent, again, born for live performance. It reeks of being set behind the bins at the rear of a Camden pub with a leaking gutter alongside.
Hip Girl has a particularly catchy riff and chorus, an instant head-nodder about a strangely freaky chick who… ‘pulls that damn thing at me‘. I have a strange feeling this song refers to said…ahem, girl, shooting a specific something from the hip. Maybe it’s far more innocent!..But I doubt it.
Lipstick and Testosterone is a favourite. As it’s about a character any self-respecting film fan will know, a certain Frankie, whom wears ‘guyliner’ We even get a line from his movie’s script uttered at the start for any a little too damned stupid to understand – this is a track to Dr. Frank N. Furter, from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and how Puss would not particularly mind him being her ‘sweet transvestite‘. Other than a thematic sense, it’s a sexy, rocking song that can be replayed over and over, thoroughly addictive and infectious like the good doctor’s philosophy and personality. A must for fans of the world’s most famous picture show.
I don’t find it unfair to say the band are particularly good at making a song about nothing, whether it be crane flies, pizza, or being afraid of the dark (which to be fair compared to the aforementioned is quite a commonly used theme) – there is the occasional reference to Puss’s existence as a feline, but this most certainly isn’t the band’s basis. They have cheeky lyrics, often somewhat dark, with stomping, headbanging, fist pumping music , riffs and power chords with better things to do than become overtly technical. That, however, doesn’t mean they have a lack of technical prowess, something they can prove across the entire album – it just isn’t their focus. They keep personal, but they do so without breaking a single thread of their solidarity. Puss is the perfect new front feline, being strong, tough, but feminine and sexy – she’s girl power out and out, and perfect for a modern day punk attitude.
This album is like something printed in the '80s, something Wendy O would stomp out onto the market. It’s a genuine punk album. It doesn’t feel like an attempt at a punk album, or a homage to sleaze rock – it’s all genuine, mark for mark, and has a dose of something extra, a bit of youth and genre splicing to make for something rather special. It’s not going to be the best album you’ve ever heard, but it’s going to be a fairly large improvement on most first releases in your iTunes. Puss and her Johnson boys already know what they want to do, and know how to do it – this is just the first time it’s on a plastic disc.
Whether you see them live or listen to this CD, you’ll get the feel of this band and what they have to offer. I can’t wait to see them on stage, and if you enjoy this little number, no doubt you’ll be putting out bowls of moonshine for Puss and her Dirty Johnson boys any time now.
An absolutely excellent effort from all involved – it’s fun, it’s catchy, it’s loud, it’s sexy and it’s full of personality and spunk. This cat’s got claws.