Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Pussy Galore - Dial 'M' for Motherfucker

Pussy Galore
Dial 'M' for Motherfucker

Released 1989 on Caroline Records
Reviewed by Jasonaparkes, 15/02/2008ce

1. Understand Me (4:05)
2. SM 57 (2:03)
3. Kicked Out (3:55)
4. Solo=Sex (3:02)
5. Undertaker (2:36)
6. DWDA (4:21)
7. Dick Johnson (2:20)
8. 1 Hour Later (2:49)
9. Eat Me (2:01)
10. Waxhead (2:18)
11. Wait a Minute (2:53)
12. Evil Eye (3:05)
13. Adwd # 2 (2:29)
14. Hang On (5:41)

Recorded by Steve Albini with Gert-Jam "Joe" Avesaath & Wharton Tiers. Producer: Jon Spencer, for Pussy Galore. All songs Spencer/Galore, except track 10. Wolf/Galore.

Pussy Galore was Bob Bert, Julia Cafritz, Neil Hagerty, Jon Spencer, Kurt Wolf.

Reissued on Mute in 1998.

Being a fan of Neil Hagerty's work in the Howling Hex, Royal Trux & Weird War, a mild admirer of Jon Spencer's Blues Explosion (like his Heavy Trash project, a bit too traditional? I am working my way through their back catalogue to test that opinion), and Spencer's work with his wife/former Pussy Galore member Cristina Martinez in Boss Hog (Martinez took the photo for their debut single "Feel Good About Your Body" and recorded their Groovy Hate Fuck e.p.), I thought I should familiarise myself with PG.

It was a bit disappointing at first, 1987's Right Now! has a great psychedelic cover and features former Sonic Youth-drummer Bob Bert on drums, as well as Hagerty, Spencer & 'Juicy Cafritz' (...Royal Trux is also an apparent member!), but I found it too rooted in the hardcore thing for my own tastes. Like folk such as Minor Threat, Nation of Ulysses and Sleater-Kinney, it's more interesting where the band went once they dropped the thrash. Right Now! and the material compiled on Corpse Love: The First Year is generally an exercise in sonic terrorism, one to play alongside Scratch Acid. Their tape-only "cover version" of Exile on Main Street was mythic (leading to Ciccone Youth's The Whitey Album) and the Hagerty-led cover of Einsturzende Neubauten's "Yu Gung (Futter Mein Ego)" was suitably wild - sampling the original track and Public Enemy's "Don't Believe the Hype." The Sugarshit Sharp e.p. moving towards the territory of Dial 'M' for Motherfucker.

The early PG-stuff is deliberately provocative, analogous to their goading of Ian McKaye and Dischord Records - PG being formed in Washington DC before relocating to New York (...though Hagerty was later in Weird War with Ian Svenonius - who put out records on and worked with McKaye and other Fugazi-associates in Nation of Ulysses & the Make Up). Pussy Galore were tapping into the primal shit - bastard blues, rock and roll, and offering their brand of Scum Rock. The song-titles were as aggressive as the brief slabs of noise - "Fuck You, Man!," "Die Bitch," "Pig Sweat," "Don't Give a Fuck About You," "Kill Yourself," and "Cunt Tease." Even more provocative are songs like "Teen Pussy Power" and the unforgiveable "You Look Like a Jew" - which goes down the "Love in a Void"-avenue (...though maybe a "Rich Bitch" one if there is a Jewish-American PG-member?). The band had a shifting line-up, Bob Bert replacing original drummer John Hammill, Hagerty leaving and rejoining, Martinez contributing before going off to do Boss Hog, & Kurt Wolf expanding the line-up when Cafritz left during the making of Dial 'M' for Motherfucker. The LP is seen as much more experimental, is much more Twin Infinitives; though if you think the band were getting nicer, please note the original title was Make Them Eat Shit Slowly (Dial 'M' is also sometimes known as 'New Album by Pussy Galore' due to the vinyl edition not having the title on the cover).

Strangely, despite the chaos and the fact Spencer recorded the Drinkin', Letchin' & Lyin' e.p. with Martinez (...one of many full frontal nude shots for CM) and Hagerty had formed Royal Trux in 1987, everything came together for Dial 'M'...A later line-up of PG was much more blues/Stones and akin to the Trux from Cats & Dogs-onwards and the Blues Explosion (the deleted Historia De La Musica Rock drops the experimental stuff for the most part - Hagerty finding that in 1990's Twin Infinitives & apparently viewing PG as day-job compared to his work with Jennifer Herrema). Unlike the time I put on Right Now!, my initial listen to Dial 'M'...was a joy - opener "Understand Me" sounding how the Mary Chain should have after Psychocandy and the whole record flying by, making me think of Royal Trux, Slates-Fall, Beefheart, & Chrome. I don't recall much about Pussy Galore being mentioned in the new takes on rock in the late 80s, but much of Dial 'M' is as out there as Butthole Surfers and My Bloody Valentine...

Bob Bert's drums are punishing stuff, a pounding primal industrial beat as potent as Martin Atkins on Flowers of Romance & Damon Edge in Chrome and not what I was expecting. The primal beat and garage rock could definitely be seen close to the early material of Chrome, but the whole thing is much sludgier and dripping with the same kind of sonic grime apparent on Butthole's classics like "Graveyard" and "22 Going on 23" (though instead of a Sabbath-riff at the centre, it's more early 70's Stones). I'm not sure who played what, but there are additonal instruments, including organ/keyboards on "Kicked Out" and the epic (for them) closer "Hang On" and sampling, including the disturbing intro for "Understand Me" with bleeps and "fucks" and the word "cancer." It's always interesting when a band is deliberately being fucked up, even if some view Pussy Galore as a bunch of middle class pseuds from DC...

Like some MBV, Royal Trux and Stereolab, quite a lot of the songs here are a few songs together - some listeners uncertain when some songs end and begin. However, if you've heard Twin Infinitives, Dial 'M' will sound quite normal! "SM 57" is a great spin around the sound of Chrome, more hardcore take on garage rock and those San Franciscan myths. "Kicked Out" is more of a soundscape, with heavy use of organs and a Blaxploitation vibe that might refer to the cover, before the song/proper comes in, sounding like The Cramps and Rocket from the Tombs on faster drugs. Calfritz, Hagerty, Spencer and Wolf manage to stretch those primal blues/Stones-riffs into infinity (...it's interesting not knowing who plays what...), and the organ comes back in towards the end.

"Solo=Sex" has gospel style vocals that could be Calfritz, Hagerty or even Martinez - the main riff could be a Fall/Pavement song - though there things get more deranged with a Bob Bert robo-drum breakdown and some sludge riffs as a demented choir comes back in. "Undertaker" had me from the start, with Bert's military drumming - though the rest of the song is a more fractal (if possible) take on the sound of Right Now! As with a lot of Pussy Galore and Royal Trux material, things seem wonderfully edited and layered together - voices and vocals and drones sliding over the primal scum rock riffs. "DWDA" opens like something Chromey - the opening of "Abstract Nympho" or "Zombie Warfare" - before a slower, minimal riff comes in - unlike Right Now! the whole LP doesn't sound like 18 versions of the same song. Synths and samples and a dubby/backwards sound dominates - though of course The Stone Roses invented all that !!!!!!

"Dick Johnson" is more stock-Spencer and akin to the less experimental sides of Royal Trux - though I get the feeling with Dial 'M' that the band were moving beyond the 1:30 - 2:20 timed assault. & this is proved by "1 Hour Later" which sounds like Slates-Fall before the song multiplies rockabilly x hardcore and a strange rootsy invocation of the song title occurs.

The last section of the LP seems even more focused, with the Wolf-led "Waxhead," which reminds me of something I haven't managed to put my cortex on yet and the slow blues/industrial drum clatter of "Wait a Minute." The final triad of the hardcore Stones of "Evil Eye," "Adwd #2" (very Sonic Youth), & the epic "Hang On" concludes Dial 'M' for Motherfucker, which might be one of those greatest rock albums of all time. After Chrome, after The Stooges, after Teenage Jesus & the Jerks...I was quite surprised how great Dial 'M' seemed, a record that gets better each time I play it - and a record that never gets mentioned much anymore. Hence, Unsung...

DIAL 'M'...
Most PG-material might be more execution or style, but Dial 'M' for Motherfucker is a rock and roll delight that I'd place up there with the material Hagerty and Spencer produced after. As I work myself back through Spencer's oeuvre, it might also be time to catch up with the other PG-members - Kurt Wolf went on to play with Spencer & Martinez in Boss Hog (as well as with Loudspeaker, Emma Peel & Foetus), Bob Bert conducted that great interview found on the reissue of Suicide's second LP (as well as Boss Hog, Chrome Cranks, Knoxville Girls with Kid Congo Powers, Bewitched and International Shades), & Julia Calfritz (Action Swingers with Bert, STP, Velvet Monkeys, & Free Kitten with Kim Gordon, Mark Ibold from Pavement/Sonic Youth & Yoshimi from The Boredoms). Lots of interesting stuff there, and the fusion of Bert, associated with Sonic Youth and the No Wave-thing, and recorder Albini with Hagerty ans Spencer suggests this is a key record from the US underground. A place where it all comes together? I've said it before, I'll say it again: Hence, Unsung.

& it's telling that eight tracks from Dial 'M' were played at their final concert, collected for posterity on 2005's live album In the Red.


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