Black Eye

CD Cover Fluffy

Review by Darren Gawle

Fluffy are preceded in North America by their reputation, and it's hard to tell if this reputation is well-earned or well-manufactured. For your consideration, I submit exhibit A: Fluffy (from England, let the record show) played their very first gig at New York's legendary CBGB's. Wow! Money just can't buy that kind of punk credibility...oh wait, maybe it can. Exhibit B, your Honour: Fluffy are keen to let you know they are hated by Courtney Love. Let's face facts here: Ms. Love once decked David Gedge (of the Wedding Present) merely because he knew Steve Albini, so telling everyone you've pissed her off is about as impressive as telling everyone you've figured out the riff to "Smoke on the Water." Finally, exhibit C: in response to accusations that they were just a bunch of upper middle-class girls "slumming it" as Riot Grrls, they fired their original bass player, the unfortunately-monikered Pandora Ormsby-Gore. Oh, they'll tell you it's because she couldn't play...

But enough of that. As the well worn adage goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And what do we get? For all the packaging, the cover shot of a Siamese cat lunching down on a white lab rat, the group photos of a band trying to look nasty, full of "attitude" and yet alluring at the same time, we get...something quite banal, actually.

It's not that Fluffy don't have the riffs; Black Eye is chock full of the punk standard riffs that we've come to know and pogo to courtesy of the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, Nirvana and (during "I Wanna Be Your Lush") even Superchunk. That three-chord rock is still a viable commodity is testament, though, to the ability of bands such as Superchunk or our own Pluto to reinvent the format. Fluffy just seem content to bash away, a tactic which would work well enough live, if carried across with enough energy. On record, however, it bores the living shit out of you as one track blurs indistinguishably into another.

band photo from CD booklet Lyrically, the album disappoints even further. Admittedly, you'd be loath to expect poetry the likes of Tennyson or Yeats to pop up in a genre of music designed as a counterblast to navel-contemplating dribble such as "Scaramouche! Scaramouche! Can you do the fandango?", but Johnny Rotten at least had a point. Most of what singer Amanda Rootes has to say seems to revolve around vague observations about truisms such as "hangovers are bad" in "Technicolour Yawn." Sample lyric: "Woke up in a bed of vomit / I think I hate myself / Woke up in a bed of vomit / I lost my pink wig and I'm in hell." Eh? The moral of the story is "The low just isn't worth the high." Well, that's the record set straight there, then.

Efforts to deal with more important issues such as rape ("Scream") and spousal abuse ("Dirty Old Bird") are rendered inconclusive by Rootes' uncanny ability to write a grade 8-level poem that simply describes the event without offering any opinion or insight on the matter. Still, you don't see many bands using words like "horrid," "effervesce" or "Botticelli" these days.

Fluffy may inspire teenage girls to go out, learn to play an instrument and start a band of their own. Fair enough, but one wonders if this inspiration would be better accompanied by a viewpoint that isn't as half-baked as Fluffy's. There is nothing shocking about women singing about their sexuality these days -- in fact, it's almost de rigeur. The only shocking thing about Black Eye lies in a band trying to pass themselves off as Riot Grrls when in fact they pack as much "Grrr" as a slightly vexed Yorkshire Terrier.

First published in Drop-D Magazine on March 15, 1997

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