The Puppini Sisters
Betcha Bottom Dollar
he Puppini Sisters come across as a bunch of out-of-work actresses (that's a guess) who saw The Triplets of Belleville once (this is official, straight off the press release truth) and thought “kitsch Andrews Sisters pop? Piece of piss, I can do that.” It's like the last time you watched Raging Bull, right? Your immediate thought afterwards was “I reckon I should go and start a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. right this second, I don't see what harm can come from that.” The result? You get knocked the fuck out, and we get Betcha Bottom Dollar—one of the five worst albums I've ever heard in my life. (This includes the time I spent reviewing local band demos for a provincial university newspaper for a year, and the time when I was so focussed on talking a friend out of committing suicide, I couldn't move to switch off the record they'd chosen to end their life to (the second Kula Shaker album).)
I'd have some vague vestige of respect for the Puppini Sisters’ faux 1940 shtick if they went the whole hog and installed a “No blacks, no dogs, no Irish” policy at their gigs. It's probably the only way they could be more contemptible. The closest you’ll get is one of the girls’ attempt at a “black” accent at the start of “Jeepers Creepers.” It’s slightly less convincing than Spike Milligan's hilarious “Paki Paddy” character.
The Puppini’s in summary? Can't sing, can't dance, can take their clothes off a little. Yeah, the focal point for the band (the one who looks unnervingly like a raven) used to be a stripper. This is why America is a much better country than England: when the Yanks grab together a bunch of haggard-looking titty bar workers to form a soulless beat combo, they at least have the dignity to steal another R&B artist's song and include a guest verse from a near narcoleptic Busta Rhymes. In the UK? We get ironic covers of The Smiths and Blondie.
Everyone loves novelty covers, right? Nouvelle Vague's second album may have induced comas, but on their debut they made gems from turd-nuggets like “Saturday Night, Sunday Morning.” Me First and the Gimme Gimmes have been the indispensable kings of “Yeah, that's alright I suppose” music for nigh on ten years now. Richard Cheese's “Down With the Sickness” is probably, what, the third greatest song ever recorded? It's so hard to fuck up these songs: learn one genre, play songs in another genre in said style. Then the kids listen to it three times: once to go “Hah, that's funny!”, once to play it to their friends and go “Listen to this, it's funny!”, and a third time to remember “Yeah, it's not that funny any more.” Black Velvet Flag, The King, The Dan Band, Paul Anka... it's so easy to do.
And yet the Puppini Sisters somehow mess it all up. The Puppinis give songs a “makeover,” in the same way that Frank Gallucio gave Al Capone a makeover with a switchblade. “In the Mood” is rendered sexless, plastic, and inhuman. “Sisters” sees them slurring their s's like they've all had Secombe-level strokes, over backing instrumentation that sounds like the Windows error message. And “Falling in Love Again”… is not an Eagle Eye Cherry cover. That's the sole compliment I can give them.
Ol' Dirty Puppinis, there's no father to their style. Except there is: if you go searching, you'll discover the last time 1940s “Let's suck off an American serviceman, we need the stockings” pop was reinvented for the then-modern era was “Swing Sisters Swing Medley” by Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers. That too included “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” Done properly. It’s not hard. All the Puppini Sisters need to do is SING. That's it. That's all they need to do to make them approach bearable, and then maybe we could overlook the smug, reactionary, “Back in the days when the UK was a pure nation” Daily Express bullshit that typifies their approach. But they can’t even manage that. They have the same breath control as a dying Big Pun, stumbling over notes like they're dyspraxic, begging for a ProTools clean-up job. It's a slow trot through a modern day nightmare, walking down an endless corridor of raised eyebrows and no fucking soul.
Reviewed by: Dom Passantino
Reviewed on: 2006-08-18