mon 20/05/2019

CD: Wendy James - The Price of the Ticket | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Wendy James - The Price of the Ticket

CD: Wendy James - The Price of the Ticket

Transvision Vamp's vamp makes a not entirely convincing stab at New York punk

Oh dear...

In the latter half of the 1980s, Wendy James’s band Transvision Vamp created quite a stir. Their music, including a chart-topping second album, was fizzing, bright-coloured, punky power pop and James was a pouting, hissy-fit of a frontwoman, emanating urgent wannabe-famous sexuality. She disappeared from view in the Nineties, turning up again in the new millennium, first with a band, Racine, and then solo.

The second and final Racine album and James’s 2010 solo effort, I Came Here to Blow Minds, boast an unexpectedly effective gnarled, druggy punk. These were followed by a 2012 double A-side single, featuring Iggy & the Stooges guitarist James Williamson on a couple of covers, including a rip-roaring stab at Bob Dylan’s “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”. These close The Price of the Ticket and are two of the album’s best cuts. For the rest, James has gathered a ballsy punk supergroup – Sex Pistol Glenn Matlock, Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye, and Bad Seeds drummer Jim Sclavunos. They build grungey, enjoyable backing tracks, part Stooges, part Voivoids, part Velvet Underground, and are equally capable on twinkling slowies such as “Screamin’ Back Washington”.

The best of the album – ripe garage belters such as “Bad Intentions and a Bit of Cruelty”, “You’re a Dirtbag, Lester” and, especially, the simple yelping rockabilly of “Why Oh Why Do You Hurt Me Still” – lives up to its innate New York underground ideals but, unfortunately, James’s lyrics and delivery often just don’t cut it. There’s drastically miscalculated Lou Reed-style talk-singing, precocious squeaking, wince-inducing lines such as “I play a liquid guitar – I’m a stone hustler”, and an unconvincing self-consciousness, imitating decadent heroes to an edge of desperation. Also there’s the cover image of James lying supine, looking worryingly thin with her breasts exposed. The cumulative effect is to prompt concern for her overall well-being.

In truth, I hadn’t really thought of Wendy James in about 27 years so was intrigued to dig around and hear what she’d been up to. I was surprised by the Devil-may-care dirtbag narco attitude of her last two albums. They are well worth a listen, as are about five songs on this one (especially the Bob Dylan cover). The rest, however, is clunky and misses its target.

Unfortunately, James’s lyrics and delivery often just don’t cut it


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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