I found Red Hot Riding Hood sitting on the New Releases shelf at HMV in Glesga, waiting for me because no one else knew it was there. listed influences on MySpace sold them immediately. Betty Boo. Girls Aloud. Suicide. Shampoo. Even Sigue Sigue Sputnik, for God sake. What? I thought. How can a band this perfect exist? At that age (in my early twenties), I was slowly coming to terms with feeling like a social ghost. While everyone around me at college was drinking, shagging, and going out at the weekend, I was drinking (tea), not shagging (never wanting to), and staying in because I liked my bedroom. Getting me away from my TV, videos, CDs, and books required military precision or bribery. College forced me to mix with people outside my own very small circle. Suddenly, everything was there for me if I wanted it.
I didn’t. But at least I had the option.
Musically, things were great. I had some of the best bands I’d ever buy into, their songs making it onto mixtapes, each band so amazing that they made me want to go and make a website about them on GeoCities. When a band made you feel that way, you know they were something special.
Lolita Storm was such a weird, defiantly punk proposition. I read about them before I heard their songs. They were three girls and a mysterious male DJ/noisemaker/Svengali (does anyone know?) who performed gigs to backing tapes that sounded increasingly chewed up the more they were played, mutating the songs every time the cassette was loaded and the button pressed. Spex, Romy Medina, Nhung Napalm, and Jimmy Too Bad gained some notoriety for their ten-minute gigs, which were intense blasts of scuzzy troublegum pop. My interest had already been piqued by interviews and random little boxes of text on Channel 4’s Planet Sound (my ultimate source in music) and in the pages of Kerrang. Their sound was described as punk, pop, and digital hardcore. In truth, they were all of the above and more. Interviews would end in violence, with the band arguing over whether or not they were feminists. Being a fan of this band would be the perfect fit for me. They were a weird gang who screamed songs that sounded like Shampoo in a street fight. So I used some of my student loan for bus fare and stepped out of Cumbernauld and into Glesga, where I found the new single.
Then I forgot about it. Somehow there was always new music to find. Oh, and some books to read. Eventually, I found myself stranded one night near Dullatur Golf Course back in the very early noughts. I’d been working there a few days a week, helping out with the dishes, hoping to make it as a writer one day. Floundering along the way, I ended up doing Communication and Media, not quite ready to enroll in Journalism. A year would change that, but until then all I had was a part-time job and a terrifying fear of everything. Not knowing how to be happy, I didn’t have it in me to be unhappy, which meant I was just there, waiting for something exciting to happen. A few months later, the chef walked out during a confrontation with the maître d’ (“The maître dickhead,” he snarled before stomping off), leaving an understaffed kitchen and – hurrah – giving me an early night home. Unfortunately, the taxi didn’t turn up and I decided to walk home in the middle of the night. Worse, I had barely any CDs in my bag. Except…well, there was just one I hadn’t listened to yet. Red Hot Riding Hood by Lolita Storm.
Oh, I thought, I might as well try this one out.
The first mile was spent getting to grips with their sound, which gave me a feeling of being force-fed with sound. By the start of the second mile, I was completely obsessed, eating it up over and over again. But it wasn’t enough. Three songs on a CD? I wanted the album now. Another trip to Glesga and I was in Borders, the home of great books, hip fashion mags, and obscure albums from bands far too niche for HMV’s New Release shelf. American imports, odd greatest hits compilations from abroad, endless copies of Shea Seger’s debut. I still need to listen to that one. G.F.S.U. (or Girls Fucking Shit Up) by Lolita Storm soon found itself in my portable CD player and I walked around, wandering between shelves, a bookshop ghost, hoping to become a tourist attraction because of my bright red jeans. This was pre nu-rave. Everyone else was dressed like Fran Healy, who always seemed like the sort of nice dude who would offer you a cuppa and write a song about it afterward.
Lolita Storm’s brand of feminism seemed so over the top that it might have been a parody, but I still can’t be sure. The album is full of warped genius, pulling listeners into demonic otherworlds. OK Sid takes shots at punk’s most infamous courtship (“Oh don’t worry it’ll be OK Sid, I won’t die like your last girlfriend did”), while Anthea Turner’s Tears revels in a revenge fantasy that doesn’t end well for the former Blue Peter presenter/Flake enthusiast. I Luv Speed extols the supposed virtues of amphetamines. Red Hot Riding Hood, the closest thing the band had to a pop hit, still sounds like nothing else. Then there were the EPs that came out like death threats, once every now and again, never announcing themselves…just appearing in shops. Goodbye America/Get Back I’m Evil dial up the comedic parody side of Lolita Storm, complete with an Exorcist sample and bitchy Steps reference.
Yes, the music is brash, sometimes head-splitting, but my God it was so much fun. Blasting those songs, actually blasting them, gave me hope and tinnitus.
Signing with Fatal Records (a feminist off-shoot of Alec Empire’s DHR label) and getting the scream of approval from electropunk legend Hanin Elias (whose debut will be a subject on here at some point), everything seemed set for Lolita Storm to transition effortlessly into cult favourites. The music weeklies were completely enthralled. Hilariously, someone in the wardrobe department of Channel 4’s As If was clearly a fan, giving one of the main characters a Lolita Storm t-shirt to wear during a scene. But then…nothing.
A while later, a single was released on a new label. 555 Records was as cult as cult can be, the sort of outfit that glues sleeves together in the garage. Unfortunately, they were victims of the post-Napster music change and struggled to sell their songs to an audience who wanted it all off Limewire instead. I bought Studio 666 Smack Addict Commandos. I might be the only person who did. Plans for a second album were spoken about online, but it never happened. Years later, songs appeared online, propelled around by the MP3 blogs that sprang up in the aftermath of the digital music revolution. Everyone had an MP3 blog. They were great for selling new music. I managed to hear Dancing With The Ibiza Dogs, which sounded – dare I say – commercial for Lolita Storm. Imagine it! Lolita Storm reaching the Top 40 with one of their abrasive bursts of screaming DIY anthems! Oh, I wanted this until I didn’t.
Eventually, I had to move on. They obviously did likewise. Sometimes I’d check their MySpace to see if new songs were up, but mostly I was listening to new music, finding different bands, while everything else changed too. I’d heard rumours over the years about the band. One of them might be a hypnotherapist/past life regression counselor, which I think is brilliant. Imagine going to see her, hoping to discover yourself in a different life, when all the time your hypnotist was in an amazing punk band in her own past life.
The music still works, even though I’m older and less punk than ever. Instead of the noise, I hear the humour more keenly than ever. How silly and wonderful they were, how much I needed them at the time. I valued their noise and brattiness, which became a shield at college, something to blot out the other noise. Sometimes, I think of them and consider how no one has tried to do what they did – but then again, it wouldn’t be as brilliant. Lolita Storm, like all the best punk bands, might not have lasted – but their music endures, sneaking into playlists, appearing like a dear old friend I knew years ago, always making me turn the sound down, but never the song off.