Spanking Charlene surely sounded good on paper: saucy female vocalist Charlene McPherson, backed by a band featuring punk-influenced guitarist Mo Goldner, bass player Alison Jones, and drummer Phil Cimino; recorded and mixed twelve songs in twelve days with producer Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, the original guitarist with Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. Unfortunately, the whole adds up to something less than the sum of its considerable parts. The disc sounds pretty good for something knocked out in such a short time, but the songs aren’t half as witty or shocking as the press kit suggests. According to their hard-working publicist, Spanking Charlene “combines attitude with ovaries” to produce a sound that includes “cocky guitar riffs and catchy hooks with blunt lyrics that can be shockingly truthful, humorous, or serious”. McPherson’s lyrics certainly can be direct (check out the disc’s second track, “Pussy is Pussy”, described by the press kit as “the greatest song about misogyny since ‘Under My Thumb’”), but the disc is sorely lacking in cocky guitar riffs and catchy hooks. The band just never lets go enough to start rocking, which is surprising, given their choice of producer. McPherson should take a page or two out of Joan Jett’s playbook (or Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist’s, for that matter). After all, rock ‘n roll is at least fifty percent attitude. Highlights include the slinky, bluesy groove and wistful lyrics of “When I’m Skinny” and the rocker “Field Trip”.
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