I went to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch at a movie house in Pasadena just prior to the great national disillusionment. “Princess Hedwig” on the marquee and in ads ensured there were only two people in the place, a condition that made the tunes sound a lot more thudding than on the CD. With no bodies to soak up the lows and the highs, the drums in “Tear Me Down” caromed off the wooden-slat walls and picked up some ambient concussion they didn’t get from the studio. Still, not a bad song and easily the most straightly rocking of all on H&TAI—a defiant, stripper-rock stride, the kind you used to hear on Tesla or Coney Hatch records. It would figure that a tune functionally indistinguishable from the kind spun by bands critics loved to aggressively ignore or disembowel gets different treatment when passed through a transgendered theatrical prism.
The rest of the soundtrack splits up between perversely enjoyable lachrymosities and pogo-punk like “Exquisite Corpse,” “Nailed,” and “Freaks,” all of which made me think John Cameron Mitchell probably wanted to be either Elton Motello or Fay Fife at one time or another—not altogether unadmirable goals. The glam-rock airs said to be associated with Hedwig in months gone by, though, have been granted solely on the basis of wishful thinking, superficial theme, and wardrobe. Said another way, the Angry Inch players aren’t convincingly ball-dragging (like, for instance, Mott the Hoople or Slade or Queen) during the loud songs. Great stuff for dilettantes, though.
It’s a sure bet H&TAI wouldn’t have gone anywhere, however, had John Cameron Mitchell been Miss Guy of the Toilet Boys. Much too crassly volcanic for cineastes, newspaper features-section writers, and the like, this New York band has been dealing in ball-dragging—such as “Electric” (from Living Like a Millionaire a couple of years ago) and an autobiographical (?!) version of Black Sabbath’s “Fairies Wear Boots”—for some time.
While Miss Guy has no great talent for high-energy rock vocals, the imprecation in his delivery saves him. Close your eyes, eliminating the stagy imagery of someone shaking his bloomers at the audience while baring a physique somewhere between Cherie Currie and Gwen Stefani, and the Toilet Boys work anyway as a garagey metal band that makes great use of drama through volume and block riffing.
For Toilet Boys, the songs are glee club zum klo anthems and football cheers to rock mythology, vintage glam cliché sold by brute conviction. Guy loves the word whore—he’s my whore on Money Street, my rock ‘n’ roll whore; yes sir, send us a pair of panties that somehow slipped off in the back of your stretch limo, please? (I mean it! The pair from an Alice Cooper album went missing decades ago.) “Hollywood” is a hooky tune that makes the compounds and cement wastelands of Los Angeles sound better than the reality. “Saturday Nite” is not a Bay City Rollers song, but could be a Sweet thing. Someone should also introduce these fellows to Suzi Quatro’s “Can the Can”—they’re born for it.