Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
We know that Shilpa Ray is a kind woman, for she's been that way in the past - we've seen her this way, but when she sings, the New York singer, songwriter and namesake of her band, Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers, gives us all kinds of reasons to wonder. When she sings, and sometimes seethes, our skepticism mounts and starts raining down blows. We're concerned that she's not at all the way she is, or pretends to be. She's a killer. She's livid and bitchy and if you happen to be involved with her socially or romantically, you should beware of the full moons, no moons, harvest moons - any sort of night, with or without a moon, for that matter - for they could all lead to her transformation into a beast of untamable fire, of lit up eyes and flaring nostrils. The songs on her latest album, "Teenage & Torture," are master works in the form of sweet dysfunction and irascible temperament, all shaped into sometimes agitated, always gritty and honest takes on at least one significantly damaged soul - albeit one that is still pulsing and still striving to heal itself against the odds, in the shadows. You begin to ask yourself how she got to be in such a state - was it her own doing, was it someone else's fault, what gives? No matter how she assumed these characteristics, they're with her now and they lead her into these torrents of pain that need some kind of dousing, but she seems to prefer not clearing herself of her troubles, or really diminishing them much, just masking them for short periods of time and then watching what happens next when they resurface like a motherfucker, bigger, stronger and more demanding than ever before.
The song "Genie's Drugs," a title that makes you believe that the necessary drugs, the "medications" could be spirited to existence through the rubbing of a magic lamp, is a song full of inferences to the wild rides that Ray's moods go on, hourly. She sings late in the song, "Indulgence seems like vacation from my job," a suggestive line that makes us believe that there is a life or death need to get away from what she does to make her money to pay for her heating and the food needed for sustenance. She sounds as if she's stuck, kicking and screaming, like a live rabbit tied up in a gunny hunter's gunnysack. She sounds as if she's got a back paw stuck in a metal trap and before she's even exhausted all of the potentially easier escape options, she's already chewed halfway through the paw to weaken the leg enough to snap the rest off and limp away bleeding. She sounds like a woman who might love a good back rubbing, but she's also a woman who keeps a dish of salt on the nightstand by her bed so that she can rub it into her wounds when she retires for the night hurting. She takes care to reverse the effects of what she couldn't numb away herself. She wishes that the she referred to in "Genie's Drugs," when she sings, "Why don't you take me to the zoo/Feed you whole bags of dime bags/Honey, I need you, to steal my thoughts and waste on garbage bags and glue/Yeah, she, she's got good drugs," was her.
Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers Official Site