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It’s nothing new for me to have people suggest a recent album for a review or for me to highlight a certain artist. The vast majority of the time these suggestions come for an artist’s agent and often the artist themselves. In this case one our readers liked that I’m from the South Shore area of Wisconsin and he wanted to talk to me about the area’s music scene. If I can make time for someone to talk about anything they find important to tell me, I’ll certainly try to make a chat happen.
I ended up meeting up with an older gentleman at the Cedar Lounge in Superior awhile back and was interested in what he had to say. I hadn’t had more than a couple of sips off my beer before the man name dropped the musician, Sasha Mercedes. It soon became apparent that this meeting was not going to be so much about the music out of the South Shore/Chequamegon Bay area, I now kind of felt like I was in for a “have you accepted the music of Sasha Mercedes in your heart?” moment. I have to admit that I’ve certainly heard the name from over the years and having old stomping grounds like Bayfield, Wisc. but I couldn’t say that I could remember if I’ve ever seen her live nor could I say I’ve ever received an album to review or really listened to anything by her. Essentially, I’ve heard the name but was hard pressed to even think if I’ve ever even put her in any of the area’s calendars in the last eight years, although I knew she was still a musician, somewhere.
The man pulled out a bag and then proceeded to place what I could figure to be every Sasha Mercedes related album that’s possibly ever existed on to the table. All in all, it must have been somewhere over a dozen different CDs ranging from what looked like demos to full production albums. Singer-songwriter, Sasha Mercedes out of Bayfield, now performs with a band called Hot Pink Hangover down in the Twin Cities. The guy was nice enough to give me a copy of their latest album called “Wasted in Space.” The band goes by aliases (think bands like The Damned or The Misfits), Sasha Mercedes is “Mercy Danger” on vocals, “Captain Davey Hazard” aka David VanderMolen plays guitar, Joey Starkey is “Dr. Joey Caustic” on bass, and there’s D.J. Rickerd or “Sgt. Danny Rampage” on drums. I’m not even sure what to think of this. On the one hand, defining a bands overall image like this might be a good thing. On the other, what particular niche is this band filling that something already hasn’t before?
From what I could gather after watching a few videos of Mercedes performing her own singer-songwriter material is that Hot Pink Hangover is taking a completely new route for her. The acoustic guitar and long dark hair that were typical for her are now replaced by a new image of hot pink short hair and a chrome outfit. The album cover of “Wasted in Space” kind of looks like it’s something you could have found in a record store bargain bin back in 1998. This is not the case since the CD is from 2017 and perhaps it might have been better if this material were released 20 years ago. If I were to think of a comparison, it’s like if Pink and Garbage where to make a hybrid collaboration album.
I first checked out the band’s Facebook site and found the new single “Wasted Girl.” All I have to say is if you’re listening to this song or the first song on the album, “Get Rich,” through headphones, make sure things are turned down. The mix on this material has a hard hitting edge as far as the treble goes to the point where it’s piercing. I compared this album to AFI’s “The Art of Drowning,” which I consider to also be pretty biting on the high end, and there’s definitely some raw punch going on with both. At least the mix isn’t muddy.
It’s interesting looking at this band from a Facebook angle. They have around 600 people who actually like their page, but the video “Wasted Girl” has over 3000 views. Is there some appeal here where people want to like this but just don’t? I’m kind of wondering why after all these years Mercedes is singing pop rock songs about drinking and inadequacy. The song “Fragile 17” seems to somehow reflect on a reason for this project. Mercedes connects with her younger self in days where she’d gain inspiration from magazines and other’s poetry, but now, “so quick to get critiques, how they all downplay me, so quick to feel ashamed because you know there’s shame in trying.” Well, I’m not here to totally drag people through the mud, and while I’m not sure exactly what the motivation was to start this project, it does seem like fun. Everything about this seems like it would have worked better over a decade ago. Yeah, I’d rather listen to a band like Metric, but is this to say say that this doesn’t have any value at all? No, there’s definitely something great happening but it will take the right person who is willing to allow themselves to get into what this band is all about and let in some of that late 90s/early 2000s, radio worthy, female fronted alternative rock back into their music hearts. I suspect this band puts on a good live show.