Sunday, 7 March 2010

Bongwater - The Power Of Pussy

Bongwater were the creation of New York indie oddball, producer/musician Kramer, and performance artist Ann Magnuson, and for a few years in the late 80s early 90s issued a string of 4 eclectic left field albums, before splitting up apparently because of money arguments.

The Power Of Pussy was their 3rd opus, released in 1991. As the title suggests, the album is a treatise to the glories of sex, kinky and otherwise. Because of the era in which it was released there is an AIDS subtext, but without any moralising.

So far, this all sounds rather bleak, but trust me, it is anything but. Be prepared to be taken on a journey through the sleazy underbelly of dubious amoral practices in 90s USA. You can almost see the steam hissing out the manhole covers!

Kramer's music (ably assisted by Dave Rick on lead guitars) covers all kinds of bases, from early Floyd psychedelia, hoe down, folk, indie rock, while Ann Magnuson's lyrics are shot through with black humour, often crossing into the surreal. The title track contains the line "Some have teeth, some have hair,...some look like Cher". I leave that to your imagination! She is also famous for her monologues set to Kramer's music, the best, or certainly the most bizarre of which is the track Chicken Pussy, a drugged-up ditty about a romp with "...the fat lead singer of Canned next door neighbor Jimbo, and his wife, who is a chicken..."! Made me larf out loud first time I heard it.

This is the kind of off-the-wall oddness to expect...

...I want one... :)

Bongwater also had a penchant for wilfully odd choices of cover versions. There are two on this album, the poignant and much covered 1950s standard Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, apparently dedicated to Ann's brother who died of AIDS, which is backed with some fine banjo picking, and Dudley Moore's Bedazzled where Ann Magnuson counterpoints the cheesy lyrics of the original with her own put downs, which works a treat.

The last song on the album is the 10 minute epic Folk Song. Prog fans will recognise the intro from Roundabout, a classic Yes song, but from then on it just gets weird. Ann's stream of consciousness lyrics eventually settle into a speed freak's sermon featuring her take on the role of women in the modern world, eventually reduced to "Sucking and shopping".

This is the kind of album you can't help but keep going back to, hearing something different every time. For pure inventiveness you'd be hard pushed to beat it.

11 out of 10

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