Pussy Galore - Biography
Between 1985 and 1990 Pussy Galore spewed out a steady stream of caustic noise and swampy blues punk nihilism. This band tends to generate a strong reaction in listeners; it’s a love or hate scenario, no grey area allowed. Viewed by some as true experimental rock deconstructionists and by others as posturing phonies in it for shock value, there is no doubt that the group’s best material endures as innovative noise rock and that its key members would go on to work in some of indie rock’s pivotal bands during the ‘90s.
Formed in 1985 in DC, by Jon Spencer, Julia Cafritz and John Hammill, the trio self-released the Feel Good About Your Body 7” that same year. Directly after the debut 7” the band added guitarist Neil Hagerty and released the Groovy Hate Fuck EP in 1986. With titles like “Teen Pussy Power,” “You Look Like a Jew” and “Cunt Tease,” it’s pretty easy to see this band as a put-on designed to provocatively shock. The record exposes Pussy Galore for what it is: a group of art-damaged poseurs trying to ruffle the feathers of the suits and the punks alike. That said there are some great tracks of revved-up trash-rock here, especially the metallic grind of “Cunt Tease.” From this same era came the cassette only release of Pussy Galore’s track-by-track take on the Rolling Stones’ classic Exile On Main Street. The band’s recasting of the album is alternately trying and brilliant, a gem of sleazy art-rock as the original is disassembled and reshaped in new forms.
The group wasted no time in alienating local DC audiences by publicizing its hatred for the revered Dischord label and the city’s hardcore scene. The group eventually left for New York City. On arrival Spencer, Cafritz and Hagerty added Christina Martinez on guitar and replaced Hammill with ex-Sonic Youth drummer Bob Bert. The newly minted lineup released the Pussy Gold 5000 EP in 1987. Martinez left the group right after the EP, although she would go on to marry Spencer and play with him in the band Boss Hog.
Later in 1987 Pussy Galore signed with Caroline Records and release Right Now!, the band’s first proper full-length. The album features some of the band’s best moments on tracks like “Pig Sweat,” “Rancid” and “Biker Rock Loser.” The overall sound had become slightly more cohesive, boasting a merger of thrashed out garage rock fuzz, B-grade Stooges riffs and mutant rockabilly inspired by The Fall. This unholy mixture is held together by Spencer’s maniacal wailing.
Hagerty left the band after Right Now! in order to work on his new Royal Trux project. Pussy Galore added Kurt Wolf and recorded the excellent Sugarshit Sharp EP. Arguably the band’s most solid release, these six tracks flesh out the acidic guitar skree and trashcan drumming with textural samples. The highlight is a cover of Einsturzende Neubauten’s pulsing “Yu-Gung.”
Hagerty returned to the fold for 1989’s Dial ‘M’ For Motherfucker. Boasting a relatively cleaner sound and solid songwriting, this record is perhaps the group’s most accessible. Tracks like “Understand Me” and “Dick Johnson” add something close to funk into the band’s harsh mix, hinting at what Spencer would tackle later with the Blue Explosion. Cafritz sings considerably less here, reflecting the infighting she was at the center of and foreshadowing her imminent departure. Later that year the band released a split single with Tad on Sub Pop that had both groups covering Black Flag’s “Damaged.”
By 1990 Wolf had also left and the trio of Spencer, Hagerty and Bert released the final Pussy Galore record on Caroline that year. Historia de la Musica Rock ups the blues and funk ante and can almost be seen as a blueprint for the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion records that would soon follow. The group called it quits in late 1990 and two years later Corpse Love, a compilation collecting some of the band’s finer moments, was released. Spencer continues to play in the Blues Explosion and Boss Hog. Hagerty saw Royal Trux become a staple of the ‘90s indie scene and continues to releases solo records. Cafritz and Bert played with Action Swingers and Cafritz later played in Free Kitten. In 1998 a recording of Pussy Galore’s last live show was released as Live: In The Red. Around this time the Matador label initiated a reissue program for the band’s entire discography.