I had the good fortune recently to not only see the 'Fabulous' Miss Wendy perform live at The Ritz in Warren, Michigan, but to speak with her after the show where she opened for local music legends Sponge. Separate from any critical views on her music, I was pleased to discover this gifted musician is also a humble, and extremely patient young woman. She spoke openly with each and every gushing fan that approached, but more revealing, was her painstaking pleasantness with several 'overly appreciative' and intoxicated male admirers.
So I find myself in the difficult quandary of having to heap both praise and criticism upon her.
Miss Wendy's Ritz set was jaw-dropping impressive in how her stage presence demands your attention, and refuses to surrender it until she's good and ready. She turned on the octane for the Detroit crowd, and demonstrated how her brand of Southern California pop/punk is not only seductive, it's powerfully addictive. This L.A. fireball can flat out play, holding her own on stage in a guitar 'duel' against a fired up Kenny Olsen. And Detroiters will admit, a girl with the confidence to show the entire crowd she's wearing ruby red panties, while playing the most spirited covers of the MC5's 'Kick Out The Jams' and Iggy and the Stooge's 'Search And Destroy' we've heard in years, is a fucking rock star. These songs have been played to death, but Miss Wendy literally brought both tracks back to electric, shrieking life with a raw, sexy, and high energy approach.
But that same seductive approach to her music is part of the two edged sword that initially tempered my expectations towards her self-titled disc. Sex may always sell, in music, in art, in life, but at what point does the image begin to detract from the art ?
The bad news is often an emerging artist will bet all her $5 dollar chips on an overly risque musical alter-ego, particularly when her level of raw talent is being under-served and under-noticed. And certain tracks on this album do run together with a common thread of hyper charged sexuality. In the same breath, Wendy announces, via song titles, that she is 'Jailbait', your 'Mistress', and a 'Crazy Fucked Up Bitch', and that when she seduces you, please 'Call Me Fabulous'. Though in reality these songs are likely not autobiographical, her vocal delivery is pregnant with authenticity. Call it sex rock, call it sleaze rock, call it whatever you want, the album is soaked in tease, the way a porn star's face is usually covered with . . make up.
The good news, is that this album is conversely, the rare exception. Even the overtly sexual tracks are refreshingly, annoyingly original, and The Fabulous Miss Wendy defied my expectations by delivering an imaginative musical viciousness.
Where the music truly succeeds is when Miss Wendy tones down the nearly overwhelming tart factor, and lets her lyricism take center stage. On pop ditty 'I Like Boys', which despite the obvious title, is actually one of the more pedestrian tracks, Miss Wendy's gift as a songwriter shines like the Savannah moon at midnight:
'I like boys from Africa, South America, and Asia.
I like boys from so many places, how could I not?
I like boys, with long hair, big eyes, pretty faces.
I like them all over the place, how could I not?'
To this day, Veruca Salt wishes they could write something this clever. Album oriented radio should be going buck wild with this track. It's the perfect radio single on par with anything Alanis Morissette or Joan Jett ever concocted. Brilliant in it's simplicity, less is clearly more.
Tracks like 'Love Song' and 'How Could You' continue showcasing the depth of Miss Wendy creativity as a pop rock poet. But 'It Hurts' is a triumph as sharp as a knife edge, that blends brutally honest songwriting ('He treated me like shit, and I didn't mind because I thought I couldn't do better'), subtle melody, and raw heartache into a boiling ball of female fury that will remind you of Bikini Kill's brighter moments. 'Scumbag' is the only exception where Miss Wendy reaches boldly for a Raw Power-esque feel, but the track falls short of Iggy's grit.
Gerald V. Casale's production and Paul David Hager's mixing highlights this ten song triumph that's over far too quickly. They've successfully molded tracks that were once little more than ideas, into two to three minute sex drenched pop rockets, without sacrificing intensity. And, beneath the occasionally lurid lap dance lyrics, there's the foundation of a tremendously talented performer, who is destined for a successful career in rock.