Niagara & the Hitmen
St. Valentine's Day Massacre
Steel Cage Records
If you're a chick, you want to be "enigmatic." Guys love that. For many women, being cool and mysterious doesn't come naturally and they have to work at it. And when they do, it's actually not even mysterious or cool at all, it's just obnoxious.
But for Niagara, sex appeal, mystery and allure are truly just second nature. It's in her every pore. That's why, after more than 20 years as a Detroit icon, she's still got it going on.
These days you know her primarily as a powerful force in the visual arts. An honest visionary, Niagara's sexy, bold work has appeared in countless galleries all over the world, vivid depictions of alluring-but-dangerous femme fatales in a colorful blend of film noir sleek and Roger Corman sleaze. But back in the day, before she made her mark as the uniquely stylish pop artist that many people have since tried to imitate, Niagara was the driving force behind two of Detroit's most influential bands... Destroy All Monsters and Dark Carnival.
Now, after who knows how many years, the fishnetted art queen of Detroit has returned to her noisy roots. All it took was a trip to Australia to get it moving.
St. Valentine's Day Massacre was recorded live in Sydney, back in 2008, while Niagara was in town there during an art exhibition. By all indications, the reunion with old playmates The Hitmen happened unexpectedly ... the set feels impromptu as they bludgeon their way through a handful of old Destroy All Monsters tunes and a few Stooges classics as well.
Doing St. Valentine's Day Massacre live was a good call ... the modern hijinks of a recording studio probably couldn't have captured the heat and immediacy that Niagara and The Hitmen brought to that little stage. Sound-wise, it's as stripped down as you could imagine ... and it should be.
The liner notes make it sound like an epic in the making, a performance that took 20 years to come to fruition ... apparently all these cats know each other from back in the day, when Destroy All Monsters played in Sydney and The Hitmen opened for them. It was an emotional rivalry then; now it's a kick-ass partnership.
It's a good mix; most of the D.A.M. songs were co-written by Niagara and the late great Ron Asheton, so segueing directly into the Stooges' "T.V. Eye" or "Little Doll" or "Real Cool Time" feels entirely natural. Hitmen guitarist Tony Jukic doesn't really crunch the guitar the way Asheton did, but come on, no one else does either. Instead, Jukic pulls off a high-octane skronk of his own, and while it never reaches Stooges heights ... and isn't expected to ... it certainly gets the job done.
I've never heard Tura Satana sing (did she?) but I suspect she'd sound something like Niagara ... a sort of throaty, husky purr, still full of the same atonal challenge she offered up with Destroy All Monsters. The woman's got style. And, you know, she's enigmatic as all hell. ... Heath Lowrance / RealDetroit