When Raleigh, North Carolina’s Picasso Trigger broke up in 1995, everyone wondered what had taken them so long — fronted by a walking tantrum named Kathy Poindexter, they’d always been a volatile crew, seemingly devoted to pissing off and confusing as many people as possible. The musical core of the band (which was named after Andy Sidaris’ boobs-and-bombs action flick) was Lisa Cooper, a cocky left-handed guitarist with a thin but brutal sound and a serious taste for sour barre chords, and bassist Samuel Mintu, whose occasional lead vocals were just this side of a seizure; Picasso Trigger went through more drummers than any band since Spinal Tap.
The quartet is still figuring out what it’s doing on the four-song Plutonium — and consequently comes as close to indie-rock normalcy as it ever would. (Mintu’s “Love Pot 69,” however, is menacing, weird and very original). Poindexter’s voice is double-tracked and treated to disguise its limitations; by ¡Fire in the Hole! (produced by Sugar’s Dave Barbe), she’s starting to catch on that its limitations could also be its strengths. Following the barre chords as her guide to a melody, Poindexter whines, sneers and hollers her way through the album (which includes a rawer re-recording of the earlier single “Valentine”) while Cooper, Mintu and drummer Jon McClain grind away behind her. The peak is an over-the-top rant called “Queenie” — when Poindexter screams “one two fuck you!” right before the last chorus, she sounds as if she’s just come up with it and is very pleased with herself.
The six-song, twelve-minute T’ain’t is a small breakthrough for the band. Looser, nastier and funnier than before, they blast through pissy little stomps with titles like “Red Headed Retard” and “Lo-Fi Tennessee Mountain Angel.” Poindexter cops a major ‘tude here, pretending to lose her voice on “Anti’d” and swaggering around with a trumpet on “Kiss Me Where It Counts.”
Recorded in three frantic days, Bipolar Cowboy is less a final bow than a parting shot (the last song is “Buckshot Goodbyes”). The recording quality is pretty much pure tin, but that only adds to the fun: everybody’s feeding back, everybody sounds like they’re out of their minds with caffeine and hate, everybody’s barging ahead with the song whether the rest of the band is ready or not and nobody gives a shit. Mintu gets in his finest vocal moment (the self-explanatory “Riot Girrrls Taste Like Chicken”), Cooper’s bizarre guitar parts keep everything off balance (she actually takes a couple of solos) and Poindexter is flat-out rabid, hissing “You can suck my ass” (“Serve This”) and laying into a “stupid whore” on “City Slut Slander.” The perfect album for a really bad mood.