S/T by Thunderpussy
Thunderpussy – S/T
Genre: Hard Rock
Favorite Tracks: “Speed Queen,” “Fever,” “Gentle Frame”
Thunderpussy are not here to make a statement about gender politics, the state of rock music, or similarly heady topics, and they are clear about this in their interviews. The statement these women have to make is one not of the cerebral mind, but of the primal, rebellious emotions behind the rock and roll revolution. To call their brand of chugging riffery “cock rock” would be equal parts accurate and inaccurate, and the band would probably find it hilarious. This is a group of talented musicians who gained the status they have in independent rock music by playing their hearts out on countless nights on countless sweaty stages, hopping around the country and leaving major labels in their dust all the way, at least up to this point.
The band’s self-titled debut has been released on the Stardog/Republic Records imprint of Universal Music Group, a move that many did not see coming. Fans truly didn’t know what to expect when they caught word of a forthcoming LP, and when asked, the band stated that expectations were not something they were concerned with when committing these songs to tape. What we’ve ended up with is an album that sounds exactly as one might have expected: pounding drums, soaring lo-fi vocals, and crunchy guitars filtered through the over-compressed lens of modern rock music production. It isn’t bashful, it isn’t meticulous, and it’s nothing new—so the question is . . . does it rock?
Most of the time, yes, it does. Songs like “Fever” and opener “Speed Queen” conjure visions of bulleting down the highway from Nevada to California in a Hunter S. Thompson, drug-induced fervor, fusing the sounds of glam and ’90s desert rock with lyrical themes that would be at home in early ’50s proto-rock: it’s mindless, it’s over the top, and it’s fun to listen to. In fact, the more mindless moments on this record are the most enjoyable ones. Slower burners like “All In” are musically competent, but take away some momentum from the tracklist.
On the album’s stronger moments, though, the band stands tall as a blistering amalgamation of everything that’s ever been good about modern blues rock, bringing to mind Black Keys, Jack White, and Queens of the Stone Age. Singer Molly Sides channels Janis Joplin with the attitude of Robert Plant, and her chops are not to be scoffed at. There’s a raw talent that comes through not just in her vocals, but in every member’s performance. Whitney Petty’s rollicking guitar solos bring a lot of finesse to some pretty simple arrangements, and the tones and sound design are always on point, partially courtesy of producer Sylvia Massey, who has worked with acts such as Tool and System of a Down.
As impressive as the studio work is, though, I can’t help but wish that I was hearing these songs live. Almost every track begs for a longer runtime and a jam section toward the end—the pedigree of these performers’ live experience is at the forefront of their sound. The reverb begs to be dulled by the echo of a club’s brick walls, and the compressed drum tracks would be better served by the natural compression of over-loud sound waves, unforgivingly smacking your eardrums. To my ears, though, the atmosphere of this band as an experience has been translated as well as it could have been.
What we’ve been given here is a kick-ass rock album–nothing more, and nothing less. The band’s name is not a joke, but it’s also not a challenge. It’s simply a preview of what you can expect to hear from their music, a statement of empowerment from a band that spends their time rocking like they were born to do it with the best of them.