Living in the time of Angelica

Your first gig is a rite of passage you never forget. For me, it was Babes In Toyland at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut. Except it wasn’t, because this itineration was actually Kat Bjelland without her Nemesisters. But this was as close as I could get to one of my new favourite bands. Yes, I came to Babes In Toyland later than I should have, something that mystifies me even now. Their music was difficult to get even at Borders Book Shop in Glasgow, with its massive music section full of college rock and punk CDs. Limewire was around but that didn’t help when your personal CD player didn’t do too well with the CD-R format. A real pain in the arse for the dedicated muso.

One of the reasons I didn’t mind Kat not touring with the other members of Babes In Toyland was the fact she’d replaced the wonderful Maureen Herman on bass with Brigit Colton.

Brigit who?

I must have been the only person in the audience to actually recognise the legend that was Brigit. She, the bassist of Angelica, literally stood a few feet in front of me. I reached out and yelled for her, but no-one heard because…well, Babes In Toyland aren’t the quietest band. Angelica. Sigh. Even thinking about their music makes me happy. They were the perfect band. Sometimes you find a band that fits you precisely, their music and presentation completely complimentary of your own aesthetic. For me, that was Angelica. The Donnas too, but for a completely different reason. Lolita Storm as well. Juliana Hatfield too. Le Tigre. All of their albums I bought from Borders, of course.

I didn’t buy their first single Teenage Girl Crush. I didn’t know of the band at that point, but the song is classic Angelica. Smart, witty, catchy. Just everything. Alas, I’d missed the episode of John Peel’s show that premiered that song. Luckily for me, there was the Deceptive Fifty compilation with a tracklist which included Teenage Girl Crush. It also included Jonathan Fire Eater and Placebo. What taste!

Angelica’s debut album (a ‘mini-album’ according to Wikipedia) is a lost classic. The End Of A Beautiful Career is a seven-track odyssey of quirky songwriting and snappy guitar riffs. Also, how can anyone disagree with the merit of a song titled Why Did You Let My Kitten Die? I love all the songs on their debut, but I have a particular fondness for the gloomy Concubine Blues.

Bit by bit, I discovered more about my new favourite band. They were Holly Ross, Brigit Colton, Claire Windsor, and Rachel Parsons. They had an official website which I didn’t think to check until their second album The Seven Year Itch was out. It used Flash. Not the sink cleaner but the actual computer software. Holly and Brigit wrote the songs. For that short period of my life, they were my Lennon & McCartney even though I didn’t actually listen to The Beatles and only knew of them from urban legend and Oasis.

Not my actual copy of the EP, which is in a box somewhere in a cupboard.

I bought the EPs including Take Me I’m Your Disease, which of course maintained the standard I expected. This put me on course for a classic second album. What happened wasn’t quite what I expected. The Seven Year Itch is every bit as good as The End Of A Beautiful Career, but there’s a clear shift in the band’s sound. Harder, slightly rougher. I expect the members of the band were tired of being in Angelica. Maybe they were slightly jaded with the industry at that point. Also, Kat Bjelland produced it. Remember: Babes In Toyland aren’t the quietest band. Somehow I knew at the time this would be Angelica’s last album. Not every band can last. Not every band should. Angelica, bright and beautiful, glowed long enough to guide me in their direction.

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