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Main » 2008 » August » 14 » Bongwater - The Power of Pussy (1991)
Bongwater - The Power of Pussy (1991)
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As much a performance art troupe as a band, Bongwater was the brainchild of guitarist (Mark) Kramer -- chief of the Shimmy-Disc label and a former member of Shockabilly -- and actress Ann Magnuson, best known to mainstream audiences for her role in the ABC sitcom Anything But Love as well as the feature film Making Mr. Right. Kramer and Magnuson first met at her downtown New York nightspot Club 57, where he engineered the sound for her performances with the all-female percussion group Pulsalamma; after forming Bongwater in 1985, the duo enlisted avant-garde guitarist Fred Frith to record their 1987 EP debut Breaking No New Ground, a crazed neo-psychedelic set typified by Magnuson's surreal narratives, often inspired by her dreams about major celebrities and fellow downtown NYC denizens.

Kicking off with the great title track, a slow-chugging anthem with a sharp Magnuson lead and lyric, along with guest vocals from none other than the B-52s' Fred Schneider, Pussy pumps up Magnuson's vicious, intelligent feminism to an even higher level than before. From the barbed "What If..." and "Women Tied Up in Knots" to her incredible spoken word "What Kind of Man Reads Playboy" and more, she's on a very artistic rampage. Style, performance, sass, and rage combine brilliantly throughout. In general, Bongwater, with Licht back on drums in place of Sleep's rhythm boxes, continue as before, incorporating a more creepy sweetness at points. "Great Radio" is a standout, the group performing a slow, drony, and druggy piece with gentle power, while other songs like "I Need a New Tape" mix up the zoned psychedelic hush of past albums once again. Covers again crop up, both quite striking. The Weavers' folk standard "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" gets a lovely, haunting take, with guest banjo from roots music legend Peter Stampfel, while Dudley Moore's hilariously dismissive "Bedazzled," from the mid-'60s film of the same name, is tailor-made for a crackerjack Magnuson spotlight vocal. Throughout Pussy, pop culture is roasted over a slow fire in a multitude of ways. "Nick Cave Dolls," besides concluding with Magnuson's breathy, delicious whine about wanting one of said items, slips in everything from references to Hollywood and Dorothy Stratten to some of the notorious profane tapes of Buddy Rich abusing his band. The absolute hands-down winner comes right at the end, the lengthy "Folk Song." Tackling everything from wannabe rebels to corporate and political idiocy from the top on down -- not to mention a ripping dissection of then-recent hit-movie Pretty Woman that spares absolutely nobody -- Magnuson is in excelsis throughout. AMG
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