Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers | Teenage and Torture
Most Likely To: be the first woman since Nico to properly rock a Harmonium.
Shilpa Ray may have been born and raised in New Jersey, but her musical delivery is 100 percent swampy, blues-drenched darkness. And I’m not talking about The Boss’ white man’s, blue-collar, Stone Pony version of the blues. Ray squalls like PJ Harvey on 4-Track Demos, or Grand Ole Party’s Kristen Gundred (Gundred is now better known as Dee Dee Dum Dum, and doesn’t like to discuss her past with the GOP). Ray’s raw, simplistic take on punked up gargage band sounds should sit well with fans of Polly Jean or either of Gundred’s incarnations.
Teenage and Torture is rife with contrasts, as on “Heaven in Stereo.” Its almost buoyant bass line balances the gravelly melody while Ray growls, “Where are my safety pins / Fasten my right to exist” over a backdrop of hand claps.
Even when she slows down the tempo, Ray loses none of her urgency (“Genie’s Drugs,” “Dames A Dime a Dozen”). Some of these contrasts are undoubtedly thanks to Ray’s Happy Hookers, who are comprised of Nick Hundley (bass), Andrew Bailey (guitar) and John Adamski (drums) with additional contributions from Greg Lewis (organ), Jonathan Lam (pedal steel) and Andrew Hoepfner (vocals/keys).
Ray isn’t singing about a “Massengil Douche” on “Venus Shaver” or titling a song “The Chelsea Clinic Physical” just to get attention. She just isn’t into editing. She integrates details that most people would prefer keep to themselves into her onstage persona sans fear. While she’s certainly not the first performer to blur the line between public and private for the purposes of entertaining, the strength of Ray’s voice and her ability to channel this energy, callow as it may be, into her vocals keep Teenage and Torture feeling strangely forthright, and help the record avoid crossing the line into parody or camp.
Watch the video for “Heaven in Stereo” from Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers: