Saturday 19 February 2011

Toxic Shock - Intoxicated 7" EMI Custom 13236, 1981

Diverting briefly from the Adelaide-centric focus of the last two posts (don't worry croweaters, we'll be back), this week we bring you a high-energy post-punk rant from Melbourne. With beginnings as a rehearsal project for bassist Sylvie Leber and guitarist Eve Glenn, the duo quickly expanded to the seven-piece all-female line-up evident on this, their lone single. Lumbering under the uninspiring moniker of the Girl's Garage Band prior the single's release, a new name would present itself after a late-'70s outbreak of illness caused by high-absorbency tampons: Toxic Shock.

Though initial musical inspiration came from the first wave of UK punk (Sylvie Leber: "If Sid Vicious could play with only 3 notes then so could I"), the single showcases influence not so much from the Pistols as subsequent developments of the Rough Trade stripe. Predictable reference points though they may be, we hear the likes of Kleenex and the Slits coming through in varying degrees across the single's three tracks. The standout song, Intoxicated, displays the wiry guitars, vocal tradeoffs, emphasis on non-standard rock instruments (Liliput's whistle is exchanged for a cowbell), and the (thankfully largely unsuccessful) rhythmic funkiness of so much UK post-punk. Furthermore, the recording and pressing costs tabulated on the inside sleeve suggest inspiration from the Desperate Bicycles (by way of Scritti Politti), though absent are the helpful pie-charts provided by the similarly fiscally transparent Slugfuckers.

Toxic Shock in action at La Trobe University, Melbourne.

Intoxicated is a theme song of sorts, detailing as it does the symptoms of toxic shock syndrome, as well as engaging in some finger-pointing directed at Johnson & Johnson and, more obliquely, Procter & Gamble (manufacturer of the offending tampon brand, whose logo is alluded to in the lyrical reference to "a man on the moon"). Buried in the third chorus, among the modern day ills itemised as differential diagnoses, is a creative diss which earns the song a mention in Malcolm Fraser month. Some years later, vocalist Fran Kelly would become a respected Australian political journalist, eventually interviewing Fraser for ABC Radio National. Funnily enough, Fraser's resemblance to life-threatening menstrual sepsis didn't come up as a topic of conversation.


The Slugfuckers got a better deal at EMI Custom's "Accidents" Division.

Thanks to Scott Henthorn for his assistance with this entry. Stay tuned for the full Toxic Shock story in an upcoming issue of Stained Sheets fanzine.


Doctor Hit said...

Such a great record ! What about the full story in Stained Sheets ? I would love to read it!

Unknown said...

Check out Making Waves Vol. 2 - feminist post punk fanzine - email interview and photos of Toxic Shock - interview by Constance Leguey.
Thanks for downloading Intoxicated on Youtube. Have wondered how you found us.