astroPuppees – Pet
1. 15 Seconds - 3:17 2. Angelica - 3:08 3. Woo Hoo Hoo - 3:11 4. Like a Suitcase - 3:37 5. Shaken Free - 3:22 6. Wanna Be Alone - 2:36 7. Galaxy - 3:10 8. Crowded Town - 3:21 9. Olive 5 - 3:01 10. It's Alright - 3:04 11. Any Other Day - 4:40 12. Speed Walking College Girls - 0:40 13. Sleep - 3:04
Kelley Ryan (vocals, guitars, harmonica, bass, drums, percussion, casio, …) , Maureen Serrao (bass, vocals) , Don Dixon (bass, backing vocals) , Marshall Crenshaw (bass guitar) , Steve Tagliere (guitar) , John Oreshnick (drums, ) , Dan McCarroll (drums) , Marti Jones (backing vocals) , …
1. AllMusic - Denise Sullivan
At the outset, cynics might feel they've heard these songs before: gentle pop melodies delivered with hard-bitten female attitude on the subject of love lost and found, punctuated by stinging guitar. But Kelley Ryan's songs go a shade deeper, with her commitment to distinct, lyrical song styling at the fore. It's caught the attention of Marshall Crenshaw, Don Dixon and Marti Jones, all of whom guest on the homemade, Ryan-produced record; co-songwriter and bassist Maureen Serrao and John Oreshnick on drums make up the band. The aggressive "Shaken Free" and her cover of Crenshaw's "Crowded Town" are standouts among 13 tracks of rock-solid pop. [Pet was also released with a bonus track.]
That astroPuppees have a strong following in Japan is no surprise. The charts in the Land of the Rising Sun smile favorably on effective bubble-gum pop. And given that astroPuppees deliver their Dubble-Bubble with an edge, all the better.
Lest you think I’m denigrating the group, I’ll say this loud and clear: I love this disc. Yes, you do hear a twinge of surprise in my voice. I simply was not expecting that nearly every track would make me bob my head and tap my foot. Probably a more apt description of the music is bubble-gum indie rock. Think Go-Gos in their early days. Think Liz Phair, but not as spotty. Think Veruca Salt, their good songs.
In this second astroPuppees release, singer/songwriter Kelley Ryan is again joined by Maureen Serrao on bass and vocals, and John Oreshnick on drums. Guest musicians include the venerable Marshall Crenshaw, playing a great six-string bass on "Angelica," a nifty tune that has been covered by Japanese pop artist Yuko Yamagucci. As perhaps in-kind payment for his contribution, astroPuppees include a strong cover of Crenshaw’s "Crowded House" on Pet.
The musicianship throughout the disc is clean and highly competent, with some truly inspired spots. "Woo Hoo Hoo" has one of the best openings I’ve heard since Blur’s "Song 2." The bass line on "Wanna Be Alone," while not approaching the complex brilliance of Elvis Costello and the Attractions’ "Lipstick Vogue," is stupendous. Since the demise of The Police, it’s seldom that a pop-rock song provides a bass line with real panache. The band uses harmonic chords in "13 Seconds" and buzzsaw guitars in the cheeky "Speed Walking College Girls," both with great effectiveness and proficiency.
The instrument that really shines, though, is Ryan’s voice. I say this as an avowed feminist and with nothing but respect -- this chick can wail! She has a voice that is highly emotive, crystal clear, and raw all at the same time. She can harmonize, she can screech, she can carry a damn fine tune.
And there’s lyrical gold in here too. The first track, "15 Seconds," immediately made me sit up and listen in:
"I went to Catholic School, I learned to tell the priest my stories
Of all the bad things I did wrong, like lying to my mother
I stole the frosted purple lipstick from the drugstore one time
My face was very red admitting this to God and Mary."
Most of the songs cover old territory -- love lost, love gained, love that sucks -- but Ryan’s writing puts new twists on the old stories. "Wanna Be Alone" is actually quite poignant:
"Every time you let me down, I pick myself up off the ground
And pieces of me scatter in your room
I let you keep a part of me that somehow you have shaken free
And I just need it back now if you’re through...
You can keep the photographs, the girl who always tried to laugh
Doesn’t look like me much anymore
You can keep your compliments, your Mr. Hyde experiments
I never did believe in them before"
Ouch. I ache for you Kelley.
astroPuppees have gotten some exposure through television and movie soundtracks, and made it onto the college-radio charts. This is promising, and I’d love to see astroPuppees in the CD racks at the local Best Buy. Kelley Ryan and crew deserve nothing less. Excuse me, but I’m going out to find the band’s debut, You Win The Bride. If it’s half as fun as Pet, I’m in for a great time.