Machine Gun Fellatio

Paging Mr. Strike

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With their second album, the deranged degenerates of Machine Gun Fellatio took a step away from the electro madness of their first album, Bring It On!, and added more radio-friendly rock guitar. Single "Rollercoaster" is as catchy a pop song as they recorded, but with instrumentation that sounds traditional by their standards, with only a tiny bit of obvious scratching in the chorus to remind you how they used to sound. Their usually filthy, depraved, genderfreaking lyrical elements are toned down for this song, too. Christa Hughes sings "You can be my old lady, maybe," which for them is practically vanilla. Elsewhere they make up for it, in "(Let Me Be Your) Dirty Fucking Whore," which starts like an authentically crackly old music hall number until it gets to the line "Bend me over and bang me from behind," before which you'd be forgiven for thinking it's a genuine song from the era. So there are still elements of oddity -- like the way "Line of Silver" transforms into a sci-fi Rodgers & Hammerstein number halfway through, or their cover of the Cruel Sea's ode to a heroin mule, "Chase the Dragon," takes a sudden and bizarre turn toward disco -- it's just that there are less of them. As well as their gift for filthy little novelty songs, they still have their gift for heartbroken and regretful pop, of which the highlight is "The Girl of My Dreams Is Giving Me Nightmares." It's a song of obsession via television with spooky Mellotron and xylophone touches that die down to just a heartbeat before one of Pinky Beecroft's typically bizarre and confused lyrical outbursts -- "Someone wrote a message on my balls" -- leads to an explosive freakout. On the other hand, "Just B'coz" attempts a similar trick, building up to an explosion of cheesy synth that sounds weak by comparison. Their attempt at a straightforward disco song, "Take It Slow," similarly falls short. It would be too easy to write off Paging Mr. Strike's flaws as a case of sophomore album syndrome, but the real problem is that it sounds compromised. It's right there on the cover: a babelicious pinup rather than the previous album's weird-looking perverts. They've always been honest about their eagerness to prostitute themselves, but with this album they prettied themselves up and tried to upgrade from streetwalkers to classy escorts. It doesn't always work, but it will still get you thinking in sexual metaphors for the rest of the day.

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