at Metro, May 9
By Monica Kendrick
After former Plasmatics front woman Wendy O. Williams committed suicide last month, leaving behind a brief, lucid note describing the sense of calm the decision had given her, friends commented that she had been depressed, feeling that she was "past her peak." It's a risk you take when you step into the rock 'n' roll spotlight: after blowing up a Cadillac while wearing only electrical tape over your nipples, a quiet suburban existence can be fatally anticlimactic.
I was surprised how affected I was by Williams's death. Until that point I had failed to appreciate how much she'd influenced me when I was a pubescent brat watching her through the static on late-night TV. I began to take her suicide personally. I saw it as further evidence that bad girls don't get happy endings--that wild women can strut their stuff while their breasts are still perky, but afterward are doomed to a lonely and ignominious end if they don't show the proper respect for the hard-to-kill notion that women are the nurturing, civilizing conscience of responsible society.
That's why I'll go to my own grave believing that there is no earthly reason for anyone to give a fuck whether or not Madonna is a good role model; it's why I'll always defend Courtney Love's right to be a toxic flaming asshole; and it's why the world now more than ever needs Nashville Pussy. In this age of extreme fussing over what sort of impact people like Fiona Apple and Dennis Rodman are having on little girls and little black kids, we need champions of everyone's right to revel in smut, spectacle, and vulgarity. Don't get me wrong--I take boundless joy in hearing music for the head issue forth from modest nerds in baggy corduroys, but the rest of the body has a way of demanding attention, like it or not. You can react the way Phil Sheridan did recently in his back-page editorial in Magnet, warning women that they shouldn't be openly sexual if they want to be taken seriously (and coming dangerously close to proving the old saw that the male circulatory system cannot fuel both brains at once). Or you can slip momentarily out of the clutches of the good-girl police and enjoy Nashville Pussy's lead guitarist Ruyter Suys on her terms: equally proud of her tits and her sizzling, Nuge-worthy licks, she whips them both out all over you, coaxing and kicking and flicking her tongue, overloading your senses until you reach the sort of white-hot epiphany that Big Rock exists to provide.
Nashville Pussy has been around for a couple of years now, the brainchild of Suys and her husband, Blaine Cartwright, formerly of Nine Pound Hammer. The two-man, two-woman band has built up a large following by constant touring; the word-of-mouth buzz made all their singles impossible to find and earned them a cover story in Flipside long before their first full-length, Let Them Eat Pussy, came out on Amphetamine Reptile in January. I've seen them three times now, and their sets have been nearly identical, the same mean, fast, shit-kicking fusion of metal, punk, and southern boogie--the same stuff that still inspires kids in every suburb in America to wear T-shirts modeled on the Jack Daniel's label but advertising "Ass-Kickin' Southern Rock."
The album, when it did come, was damn solid. But it's not the reason Nashville Pussy's shows are packed or the reason you're reading this. The reason is the smut, spectacle, and vulgarity. It's Suys in her red vinyl pants and sweat-soaked demi bra wailing on her SG and pulling out all the stops with letter-perfect post-Van Halen cock-rock moves, hampered not in the least by her lack of a cock. It's blond, sinewy, six-foot-five bassist Corey Parks, her leather pants slung low enough to show her full-pelvis Harley logo tattoo, which says eat me inside the badge, only briefly putting aside her bass to swig lamp oil and blow flames over the gawking meatheads at her feet. It's Suys and Parks stalking each other, wailing on Ted Nugent's "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang"--then meeting in a full-on French kiss without missing a lick. It's all the guys in the pit torn between the urge to mosh and reluctance to take their eyes off the stage; it's the women in the balcony grinning and pumping fists and yelling along with "Go Motherfucker Go."
On the one hand Nashville Pussy's show seems tailor-made for stadiums, but it did lose something in translation to Metro from the shows I saw at Lounge Ax and at Emo's in Austin: the security guards in the gated borderland along the fourth wall didn't fight off the hopped-up gropers with the same panache that the ladies themselves can--no arch biker-bitch sneers, no boots to the head, no mooning--and whereas at the smaller venues Parks's fiery breath seemed to graze the tops of the bartenders' heads, it disappeared a few rows out at Metro. But enough of the electric danger remained that Nashville Pussy's rise to stardom should continue along its current trajectory. Without a doubt the best rumor I heard at South by Southwest was that a Columbia rep had boasted of buying Amphetamine Reptile outright just to get them--not bad for a band whose name can't be said on the radio. It's not true, but plenty of people were willing to believe it.
Personally, I hope the Pussies get filthy rich. I hope they invest well. I would like to see Suys and Parks in glamorous middle age, sitting by a swimming pool and telling fresh-faced interviewers, "You're too young to remember this, but when we started out, people thought that a woman who let her tits hang out couldn't possibly be serious about her music--yeah, I know, Iggy Pop and Lux Interior and Angus Young, but really, people used to think that women who had shit to say should sound like the Indigo Girls and stay away from the shit that rock 'n' roll is really about, like pickin' fights and gettin' laid."
Why are they so deserving? Because they're good at what they do. They kick motherfuckin' ass, and that may well be the only thing in history that horny rednecks and "postfeminists" will ever agree on. Nashville Pussy's shtick won't stop world hunger, and it won't end eating disorders. It won't revolutionize the music industry, and it certainly won't bring Wendy back. But it does make the world a little bit wider for bad girls with big ambitions.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos by Marty Perez.