As a kid, home alone one night watching the weekend horror-movie-thons that permeated late-'70s life, I first saw Devil Doll -- a ridiculous 1964 flick about some evil ventriloquist or another, and his possessed dummy. It's stupid, poorly done, pretty funny, and scared the living shit out of me. Since then, the entire doll-comes-alive-and-kills-people genre of horror has completely freaked me out. I've been fortunate enough to live in doll-less houses most of my life, but now, thanks to a friend's wanderlust and generosity, there's an Indonesian wooden monkey puppet -- complete with red fez! -- in my kitchen. And every night, I watch the kitchen's shadows from another room, with just a flicker of nervousness that, one day, one of them will move, topped off by a tassled hat.
The soundtrack to this fear is undoubtedly Sting Sting Sting by Toronto quartet The Sick Lipstick. There's something primordially scary about Lindsey Gillard's possessed-demon-doll, high-pitched singing. Coupled with post-no-wave guitars (Allan Graham) and deconstructed drums-and-keys dance rhythms, The Sick Lipstick could be the kind of group that cavemen paint on walls to appease.
After a few listens, Sting Sting Sting gets a bit safer -- almost fun. The Sick Lipstick's got all those scrape-y West Coast post-punk things down pat, wriggling around the rhythms, de-tuning surf music and pogo-soul. Yeah, it is fun; I could really dance to this -- maybe play it at a party. This isn't so scary. Let's check out the lyrics a little bit, see what Ms. Gillard's squeaking about & oh, shit: "I want your baby / so you'll have to come inside me / I asked for it / no I didn't want to scrape it out," she blurts in "Pretend I'm Sleeping" -- and then it starts getting weird, and a bit nasty. "Pull my hair / in the shower / it comes out in lumps & straddle you / punching the ground / punching your face," in "Thigh Master, I'm Yr. Master." Gillard makes last decade's riot grrrls look like simplistic teddy huggers: Like a post-feminist Happy Flowers, she bitches about Mommy not taking her to the cinema and zombie cookies with milk, and about making babies at the North Pole with Santi Claus.