Rough Trade Records, London
June 9, 2011
Why hello, Wendy James. It’s been a while. Almost 20 years since I saw Transvision Vamp play at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney. A mostly unremarkable show except for the amount of intimidating drunks in attendance and the fact they played their current ‘hit‘ twice. Australia loved Transvision Vamp, almost in the same way it loved Blondie, decades before. Stick a blonde wig on a mop, put it in front of a bunch of guys in leather jackets and you’re set. Transvision Vamp at that time were in their career descent with Little Magnets Versus The Bubble of Babble (my head still shudders at the idiocy of this title) and this was their last roll of the dice.
Independent Sydney act, The Cruel Sea, had the unfortunate task as support and as they went about their business, the crowd moronically chanted ‘Wendy, Wendy, Wendy’ which only fired up their vocalist Tex Perkins, taunting the liquored up horde with “This next song is called… Wendy”. It would be the last time James would hear the roar of the crowd calling her name, as the band would break up a few months after. A solo album written by Elvis Costello, Now Ain’t The Time For Your Tears did little to boost her talent and releasing two albums as Racine a decade later appearing as little more than an attempt of James to revive her career with a revolving cast of hired young guns, pimping a lo-fi garage sound.
James’s instore at Rough Trade Records in London, her first live outing in several years to promote the last year’s I Came Here To Blow Minds album seemed made up entirely of 80’s nostalgia buffs, with James nervously fronting a poached high school band, the quartet looking decidedly un-rock and roll to James’s leather jacket and smeared eye-liner. The songs skipped by falling short of a tune or indeed a memorable chorus, something that the backing of a decent legacy would enable listeners to overlook. All of which is a shame, because you hate to see your teenage interests a shadow of their former glory.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to expect the 45-year old James to try and posit herself as a faded Marianne Faithful type, reflecting on her past with some grace and dignity and perhaps a little reinvention, but with a band made up of fresh-faced boys barely old enough to remember Transvision Vamp and touting a rambling rock n’ roll skit with a chorus that goes “You’re a Fucking Mess, But You Sure Is Pretty”, you can’t help but feel sorry for her.