Wendy James: I Came Here to Blow Minds

Former Transvision Vamp vocalist brings a mighty wind.

Wendy James

I Came Here to Blow Minds

Label: Cobraside
US Release Date: 2011-03-29
UK Release Date: 2011-02-28

Recorded largely in Paris, this latest offering from former Transvision Vamp vocalist Wendy James more often recalls New York City and the dusty, desolate outback of the American West. In its way, the 13-track release is also a throwback, sounding more akin to a record from, say, 1993 than 2011. That’s not a bad thing. There’s nary a trace of the production hallmarks of this decade or the last. The record sounds like it might have been recorded live in the studio during a few hot-burnt sessions in the French summertime all those years ago. It’s an easy, breezy, devil-may-care affair that comes incredibly close to working from end to end.

The opening “The Moon Is Dead in the River” calls to mind the Church at their peak and finds James delivering some of her best understated vocals. She never overemotes, nor does she strain to impress. Instead, she inhabits the song with well-worn comfort and an undeniable coolness. It’s the same for the attitudinal “Don’t Shoot––I Ain’t Dillinger” and the decidedly vintage New Wave vibe of “Speedball”, a track that would easily make both Richard Hell and Black Francis proud.

It’s those tougher-than-tough moments that are James’ real strength. Those strengths are most audible when the rock is of the straight-ahead, raw, four-on-the-floor variety. When a New Orleans-like beat enters the picture on “No Dice”, the tune doesn’t carry the same impact as its sisters. The dance-y, pop-ish “Municipal Blues” still has lyrical bite but lacks musical punch, leaving James sounding a bit out of place. The penultimate track “You’re A Fucking Mess, But You Sure Is Pretty” never lives up to the promise inherent in its title, although it is an impressive cross of loft party punk and Brechtian bomp.

These shortcomings suggest not so much a problem with quality control as with ambition. Variety is the spice of some but not all things, and perhaps a more concise, controlled statement from this storied veteran would have been in order. Her forays into other styles under the moniker Racine, although proof positive that James is nothing if not adventurous, remain flawed and searching affairs. So, if I Came Here to Blow Minds isn’t a wall-to-wall classic, it is a fun and furious romp from a woman who, after more than a few years in the business, is finally starting to find her artistic footing. This is evidenced on “New Wave Flowered Up Main Street Acid Baby” and the sassy, sexy “You Tell Me”, which, in an ideal world, would be a club and radio staple.

I Came Here To Blow Minds is a worthy addition to the artist’s canon and is surely inspiring––in the sense that it’s always a good reminder that rock ‘n’ roll is largely about the right attitude. With the right snarl, growl and quiver of words, one can still make art that matters, even if it comes up short. So, your mind may be blown by this release even if it’s not entirely shattered.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.