Girls Don’t Sigh


“You make me mad when I’m driving my car.” That’s a brilliant line, especially given that it’s from an L.A. punk band. It could stand alone, as graffiti or epigram. “You make me mad when I’m driving my car,” a motto for contemporary America.

Album title, Eat Shit +1. The title has to do with getting on a guest list. You know, you eat shit to get the gig, but lucky you, you get to invite a friend, and he gets to bring a friend too. (Old punk joke: How many punks does it take to change a light bulb? 27. One to hold the chair, one to screw in the bulb, and 25 to get in on the guest list.)

Eating shit +1 is probably better than eating shit and dying.

All right, I lied. The truth is that this is a reissue of Texas Terri and the Stiff Ones’ barely distributed Eat Shit album from a couple years back, plus one new track.

Album cover: Terri is bent over nude, twisting the mic cord around herself like a snake. This doesn’t really signify “sex,” just “raunch.” Personally, I want seductions to be more romantic than this; I mean, not soft lights and that crap, but not just, “I’m nude, dude, so stick it in,” either. In fact, the lyrics are much less about sex than about raising hell and being angry—though I suppose that angry hellishness can be erotic too, if that’s your taste. “I will defy you as I delight you, I will defy you as I ignite you,” she says, but more typical are “My mama killed and cooked the family cat” and “Put the money in the bag, and no one gets hurt” and “You’re just a loudmouth bonehead drunk.”

What I’d heard about Texas Terri and the Stiff Ones—from Chuck Eddy, from Hillary “Loose” Chute on the Voice‘s Sound of the City page, from 22 or so sites on the Web—was that they sound like the Stooges, but I disagree, and not just because this raises the bar too high, to compare them to the Greatest Rock Band Ever. As Terri herself told Cat Scratch Fever webzine: “I would describe myself as someone who comes from the heart, someone whose emotional realm is exposed on stage with no bars held.” And she told Liz Ortega of, “If people compare our music to the Stooges, it’s the feel of the music, because our songs don’t sound anything like Iggy and the Stooges. But if it’s the feel, so be it.” Anyway, no one sounds like the Stooges. For the Stooges, the rock beat wasn’t predetermined but rather something to be remade differently from scratch on each song—they took the sound down out of the drums, as Iggy said, and every instrument went into rhythmic interplay with every other. Whereas the Stiff Ones are just regular hard-assed rockers in the Heartbreakers-Dictators vein, laying down a basic groove and throwing all sorts of music on top. Conventional, though Terri really has a voice; she’s willing to scratch and retch and spume all over. She’s the show, a star, could be sexy in a tough way except that the band is merely aggressive, doesn’t have enough of a Stooges r&b carnal undertow. Well, maybe she’s got her own undertow, a repertoire of snarls and slobbers and spits, all visceral, all rhythmically precise.

“My advice is women should be wilder.” OK. Why? Wilder in what way? (“All the feminists love me, but I could give a rat’s ass,” she told the Willamette Week.) “Fighting is a way of showin’ your love.” It is? And is cooking cats, too?

You know, maybe in regard to her singing there’s a valid Iggy Stooge comparison, since back in the day Iggy was mewling and coughing and burping, and not just for obnoxious effect but for rhythmic effect, to move the music. And this is what Terri does, too. She limits her palette, though, limits the body sounds to the tough and rough, leaves out Iggy’s giggles and his girly sighs. This is unnecessarily restrictive—sighing is a rhythm too, you know, and if she doesn’t think girl sounds are wild enough for her (“My soul is raw, just like the meat I eat”), she can do them sarcastically. So long as she does them. I mean, it’s not wild to restrict oneself to “wildness.”

“I’m gonna start swinging, I don’t care who I hit.” If she were really wild she’d say “whom I hit.” That would show the audience that she’s not gonna take any of their shit—her wildness would be her wildness, wild from her brain, from somewhere other than the genre pool of punk toughies.

Well, maybe I’m carping too much. Good tunes, strong band, singer who verges on greatness. It’s just that, when someone is verging on greatness, I don’t want her fenced in by her own attitudes. Being female in a world where “femininity” has been contaminated, she’s unwilling to go into girl land, won’t do an Iggy falsetto but stays hunkered down in the land of growls instead. She creates microbeats while clearing her throat, rhythms while spitting—a potential rainbow of sounds, if only she’d allow herself to get beyond the reds and the browns.

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