With Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers, I thought I was getting into some kind of Xavier Hollander thing at first. The opening lines “Click on me boys, Click on me,” did not help much. Then the guitar kicked in and Shilpa gave her best Poly Styrene vision with the repeated line: “Say you’re done, say you’re done, say you‘re done…” And I kind of got it.
The song is “Hookers,” and is the opening track of the new Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers new Teenage & Torture CD, just released on Knitting Factory Records. As a non-time resident of the downtown NYC scene that Knitting Factory represents, I cannot tell you how “hip” this record is supposed to be. What I can tell you is how good it sounds.
It is the beautiful pop of “Heaven In Stereo” that makes the record. When Poly (excuse me Shilpa), sings “When it shakes, shakes, shakes in my heart,“ you feel a piece of razor-bladed pop strong enough to (almost) make you believe in the jaded NYC clichés.
Actually, a lot of the posturing falls away as you get deeper into the album. On cuts such as “Stick It To The Woman,” and “Erotolepsy,” I hear the wonderful early Blondie of Plastic Letters (1976). Shilpa Ray has a pretty strong Patti Smith thing going on as well. It is evident throughout the record, but nowhere stronger than in the final cut, “Requiem In A Key I Don’t Know.”
Who are Shilpa Ray And Her Happy Hookers? The cynic in me wants to call them pretentious players. But Teenage & Torture is actually just too damned good to dismiss. In fact, I think I will be playing it over and over in the coming months – just to find out what the hell it is all about. It is the first great record I have heard in 2011.