Janet Street Slaughter are a five piece band, four of whose members I first heard on an excellent compilation of Bury St Edmunds based bands called ‘This is the Sound of Sugar Town’ (still available at repeatfanzine.bandcamp) around 15 months ago. They went under the name of Voter Kernel and the promise of that early blast of anarchic energy and in your face vocals never really got the chance to develop as the band split fairly soon afterwards. Four of the band members went on to recruit drummer Zak Whittaker’s younger brother, Bobcat, to form Janet Street Slaughter and release this, their debut album.
Variously described as ‘apocalyptic carnage core disco’ and ‘twisted operatic punk-metal-psychedelia’, there’s probably not much I can add to those descriptions other than to say, in among the noise and thrash there are some excellent songs and melodies fighting for their lives. Opening track ‘The Wreckage’ is a case in point, front man David Jago’s vocals veering from an antagonistic growl to an unexpected falsetto with the odd pained howl thrown in for good measure. Powered along by the guitars of Jago and Ted Barleycorn at a frantic pace, it’s an impressive opener. The pace doesn’t let up with ‘Cat Piss Car Seat’ which has the added dynamic of Mike Ogden’s energized keyboard- think of a crazed Dave Greenfield of The Stranglers for a reference point. The pace finally relents two thirds of the way through the song with a bit of a left turn into a piano and acoustic led outro with Mr Jago quietly crooning, relatively speaking.
The band address ‘The Sensitive Side of Bill Sykes’ next, the frantic ‘you’re angry with yourself and I don’t know why’ refrain interspersed with a kind of floating organ sound, incessantly jangling guitars and a driving, agressive rhythm section before Jago really lets rip with his vocals. He must have the honey and lemon at the ready after this.
‘The Endless Restlessness’ offers some respite musically with an airy psychedelic keyboard prefacing the cheery opening line of ‘sit and relax, watch something crap, you’re only moving closer to death’ before picking up layers of instruments that eventually lead to another change in pace, a lonely riff preparing the way for the anguished primal scream of Jago. A well-earned rest for the vocalist comes next with an instrumental of the kind of lazy but tight riffing that the Pixies excel at. I can’t say I know too many songs about the effects on a woman’s mind and body when she reaches a certain age, but ‘Menopause Meltdown’ appears to do just that, and from a man’s perspective to boot. It opens with late 60’s psychedelic keyboards and a rather calm vocal (again, relatively speaking), gradually picking up the pace musically and vocally as it travels towards its inevitable climax.
‘Femke’ rises and falls in a similar way, the keyboard tumbling along at speed before offering up some gently swelling chords, the guitars trying to outdo them in defiant fashion and Jago matching it vocally every step of the way.
The album finishes with what is probably its most straightforward song, a fairly rollicking, swinging sing along called ‘Band Breaker’- The Faces might have sounded like this if they were trying to imitate Pavement. Or the other way round. Either way it’s a pretty upbeat way to finish what is at times a wonderfully chaotic and energizing album.