I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

Love It or Hate It: Maximum Penetration


by Alison Stevenson
Feb. 13, 2013

Maximum Penetration is approximately 40 minutes of live performance footage from the garage punk band Pussy Galore, mostly of the same show. Pussy Galore is one of those bands that at the time (and probably still to this day) people either loved or hated. It's hard to feel ambivalent about music that is so obviously trying to get you riled up. It's much more important you feel their music as opposed to simply hear it, which is what's so great about seeing them on video. You either embrace this feeling, or if it scares you, get away from it as fast as possible.

Fronted by Jon Spencer (pre Blues Explosion) the band started in Washington D.C. and later relocated to New York. This footage is from an unspecified show somewhere in the east coast in 1987 after they had moved. The tracks were originally listed incorrectly by Atavistic, but thanks to the internet, an updated track listing was posted. The band's lineup over the years was pretty fluid with notable members such as Bob Bert formerly of Sonic Youth, and Julia Cafritz who later joined Kim Gordon on her side project Free Kitten. The lineup in Maximum Penetration specifically is Jon Spencer (vocals and guitar), Julie Cafritz (vocals and guitar), Kurt Wolf (guitar), and Neil Hagerty (drums, trash cans). Three guitars and no bass player? Maybe that's why they couldn't keep their rhythm! Ha! Get it? Okay horrible joke, sorry. Anyways, another notable member is Cristina Martinez who Spencer brought into the band when she was 16, regardless of her inability to play any instruments. The two later developed a pretty well known romance, remembered now though photographs on alternative teenaged girl's Tumblrs forever.

At the start of the video, Pussy Galore is very appropriately introduced as having three words in their vocabulary: rock, kill, and fuck. The aesthetics of Maximum Penetration is half home movie, half acid trip. Extremely distorted, incoherent, and jarring-much like their sound. There are interesting cuts to better quality footage, most notably around nineteen minutes in of the band on The Uncle Floyd Show. What I love best about this brief part is how disheveled the group plays over the recording they were supposed to be lip syncing to. Spencer near the end of the song drops his guitar, which feels almost vaudevillian. They're making a joke of being on the show and a joke of themselves. That is pretty rad if you ask me.

Pussy Galore formed in Washington D.C. in 1985. This was around the same time the city was gaining a second wave of hardcore bands rising from the influence of earlier formed D.C. bands like Minor Threat, Bad Brains, and The Teen Idles. PG was quite polarizing in that their cacophonous garage rock sound didn't really seem to fit what was going on there at the time. In fact, they are noted as having ruffled feathers with various groups in differing scenes. Their move to the east coast was significant because of this. In New York they found a larger following of people who “got them”. Maximum Penetration pretty accurately displays the following they had. Though you can't see the audience, you can hear them frequently clapping, cheering, and screaming along. This film was released right in the middle of their time together as a band. They officially broke up in 1990. Not yet did they release Dial M for Motherfucker, but rather this film was made after the release of Pussy Gold 5000. Before Pussy Gold 5000 the group covered the Rolling Stone's Exile on Main Street, and though only produced around 550 copies on cassette, gained a lot of mainstream media attention over it.

There is something to be said about Spencer's vocal abilities. Sharp, focused screams interrupted by moments of softer sincerity. Spencer seems to stand out most in the film mainly because it's hard to get a look at the rest of the band throughout. Cafritz stands out at times as well, especially when she takes over the singing at 13:45 for “When I Get Off”.

Maximum Penetration is for the most part a long music video with few breaks between songs. It keeps a rather constant fast pace going and is overall pretty frickin cool to watch. Not only because of the band's intensity but also because of the film's effects, whether they're intentional or not. MP captures the band in their prime, and manages to encompass everything about Pussy Galore. You know other than the whole “fuck, kill, rock” thing. We see first hand their energy, spontaneity, and ruthlessness. Also Jon Spencer wears some cool star patterned shirts.

 

Track List:

 

01. Watusi Pussy
02. Pig Sweat
03. White Noise
04. Just Wanna Die
05. Nothing Can Bring Me Down
06. Biker Rock Loser
07. Constant Pain
08. Pussy Stomp
09. NYC 1999
10. Cunt Tease
11. When I Get Off
12. Get Out
13. Pretty Fuck Look
14. Trashcan Oildrum
15. Die Bitch
16. Spinout
17. Kill Yourself
18. No Count
19. Fuck You Man / Encore
20. Alright

 

Sources:

http://www.discogs.com/Pussy-Galore-Maximum-Penetration/release/2464609 (for track list)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pussy_Galore_(band)

http://dangerousminds.net/comments/pussy_galore_make_them_all_eat_shit_slowly

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_of_Washington,_D.C.#Hardcore

 

Alison Stevenson is a comedian and writer who lives back and forth between Oakland and Los Angeles.  She has performed at various venues across the country including the San Francisco Punchline, and the Purple Onion. She considers Woody Allen and John Waters her two gay dads (even though only one of them is gay). She has contributed to various sites such as Comics BulletinForty Ounce Bachelors, Imperfect Enjoyment, and Film Drunk. In her free time (which is all the time) she listens to a lot of power pop, eats a lot of pizza, and tweets stuff on her twitter thing (@JustAboutGlad).