Under Review: Shilpa Ray And Her Happy Hookers – Teenage And Torture
Upon hearing the first few wheezes of Shilpa Ray’s harmonium, I could tell that she was someone by whom I couldn’t help but be taken. Shilpa most recently toured with Grinderman, her mere selection as Nick Cave’s opener giving good indication that she was a worthy listen. In 2009, Shilpa and her band, the Happy Hookers, released their full-length debut, the promising (if not completely satiating) A Fish Hook An Open Eye. Luckily, the band hasn’t wasted anytime in crafting a tremendous and exhilarating follow-up. Teenage And Torture, with its full-band attack, features the breadth of Ray’s curious brilliance. The songs are enticing and revolting, beautiful and ugly, delicate and dangerous. These contrasts breeze by effortlessly as Ray and her band tear through the raw and raucous garage-punk with a possessed fervor.
Many of the songs that Shilpa performed on her own when I saw her in Washington appear on Teenage In Torture in expanded, fuller forms. Preoccupations with graphic sexuality are quite prevalent, as Ray aggressively roars through the “nut house, mad house, whore house, poor house” and more in “Erotolepsy.” The disc opens with “Hookers,” which, as you might imagine, is rife with imagery so perverse you simply cannot look away. Not all of Ray’s songs are so lyrically lusty, but her powerful wail can turn even the informercial phrases in “Heaven In Stereo” into sinister come-ons. The album’s longer pieces, like “Genie’s Drugs” and “Dames A Dime A Dozen” allow Ray’s ideas to breathe and blossom in ways that they rarely did on A Fish Hook. As closing tracks go, “Requiem In A Key I Don’t Know” is stunning. Featuring an airier atmosphere than the rest of the album, Ray’s “Requiem” details the woozy end of a drunken night. By the time you reach the end, you might feel like you need to wash your hands or call your mother, but you’ll inevitably be drawn back for more of Shilpa Ray’s delectable sin.