Monday, November 28, 2011

Record review: Bad Bad Meow - 'Big Phat Pussycat'

By Andrew Hertzberg

About a year ago, I did one of my first interviews for this website with Bad Bad Meow’s drummer Sarah Sydow. In it, we discussed possible first album titles. At the time they were kicking around the idea of Pussydoodle, but have opted for the slightly less offensive Big Phat Pussycat. Released back in May (yeah, yeah, better late than never, right?), the debut LP shows a surprising dynamic between the tracks and all the slide guitar you could ask for. The band centers around Sarah behind the kit, Alen Khan on acoustic guitar and lead vocals, Chris Ray on slide guitar, and a rotating cast of characters filling in on bass and other surprises. Sarah and Alen have played together in infinity +1 bands going all the way back to their days in North Carolina before moving to Chicago. They haven’t lost their southern charm since moving the great north, making equally sure they don’t get too serious, nor too silly.

The album kicks off with "Mother, Father," a deceitfully straightforward rock song, but a great introduction to Khan’s heart-on-the-sleeve vocals that bring to mind Frank Black (Black Francis, even) but with the hint of a southern accent. "La La La" is actually just as cryptic, hectic and head-spinning enough to be a Surfer Rosa b-side. Remember when I mentioned the dynamics of this record? The together-forever doo-wopish ballad "Run to the Middle" is followed by the self-explaining punk-blues, garage-stomp "Drink and Regret," turning the remorseful “I said it / we never / should have gone to bed together” into a cathartic chorus at the end. Of course, this is followed be the track that may have inspired the regret, the piano led "Touch It!" that just demands to swing your partner round and round (dance floor optional).

Bad Bad Meow made sure to make their mark in the tradition of rock star excess with ‘Country Repeat’ which could be the theme song to Benny Hill if it was set in the South. ‘Please Wake Up’ sounds like Alen was actually crying in the studio when they recorded this, the abrasive slide guitar, playful xylophone and electric pianner adding to the eeriness at the end of the song. The album closes out with the entirely not subtle "Drugs" which alone warrants the comparison to the Violent Femmes that they often receive. Overall, listening to the album is just as emotive and fun as it is to see BBM live. You can tell Sarah and Alen have a great chemistry from playing together for a while, while simultaneously being open to what other creative minds have to add.

Big Phat Pussycat is currently up on bandcamp for $nameyourownprice. See Bad Bad Meow in action this Wednesday, November 30th at the Empty Bottle. The show starts at 9:30 PM, is 21+, $8 (or free if you RSVP online ahead of time). The band promises some special guests to take the stage with them. Opening it up is Pinto and the Bean (you already know what we think of those rad dudes) and Peoria based, Eastern European folk inspired Jared Bartman.


Check out more record reviews:
Pillars and Tongues - The Pass and Crossings
Ian Hoffman - Dome Swan
Rocket Miner - Songs for an October Sky
Tiny Magnets - Time to Try
To Destroy A City - S/T

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