Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers – [Album]

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Some records just can't help but make listeners feel a little dirty as they spin. To be fair, it isn't always an intentional act of defiling; there may not be something overtly offensive about the music, but there's just this ragged undercurrent of madness, mania and violence that flows through the music and makes it feel taboo. There's an inference that something a listener is experiencing is forbidden which makes it very tempting and that ends up being the hook that drags them in for the long haul; it's the siren song of the sweet and lowdown, and it can be the thing which hypnotizes listeners and holds them enthralled. That's the sort of sound that Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers present perversely on their full-length debut, Teenage And Torture, and it's just perfect – if a listener is game for it.

Stomping and screeching like a barroom cat-fight between Chrissie Hynde and Shirley Bassey, Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers make the most of the hellacious imagery that such a scene implies with “Hookers” and sink their hooks deep into those listeners with a will to walk on the wild side. As Ray herself bays at the moon and drops sheets of torrential harmonium for a textural backdrop, guitarist Andrew Bailey, bassist Nick Hedley and drummer John Adamski swirl up a menacing cyclone of sound that only occasionally breaks to give listeners a breather before going another round. That pattern is so infectious and unrelenting that anyone caught in the maelstrom  might not notice when “Hookers” collapses into “Heaven In Stereo,” and then again and again through each song on the rest of the album; they'll simply be caught in awe. At every turn (but particularly on songs like “Hookers,” “Heaven In Stereo,” “Liquidation Sale” – which borrows from Howlin' Wolf's “Backdoor Man” – and “Erotolepsy”), Ray exorcises demons and leaves them on blood-splattered tape to every listener's excitement. At the same time, the singer also proves that not every lyric has to be profound to be brilliant (check out the “You can travel to Oprah's Chicago/but the broad is gonna make all your problems worse” from “Requiem In A Key I Don't Know”) as she goes; there are great songs here which wouldn't even be songs for anyone else – they'd be drunken half-writings from that long night at the bar – but they're perfect here because they add more binding to the unhinged, maniacal spell that the album casts. Teenage And Torture is a phenomenal rock n' roll record in that way – it combines all of the best original inspirations of the genre (raging libido, anger, frustration, love, hate, happiness and disdain) and plays them all at once.

So, after a whirlwind like this, what could possibly come next from Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers? No one could possibly know – the raw energy and passion of Teenage And Torture will leave every head it touches spinning. The album is dark as hell, but it's so damned good; if Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers can make another record even half as potent as this, they deserve to be the next great rock phenomenon.



Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers – “Heaven In Stereo” – Teenage And Torture


Teenage And Torture is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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