Miss High Heel – “The Family’s Hot Daughter”

Not sure how seriously I should take this one. With ten members (two synths! two vocalists! two bassists!) who apparently never managed to play on the same stage, “The Family’s Hot Daughter” presents a studio accretion of self-described “ungovernable music” that does more to challenge a listener’s attention than I would have guessed possible by something so outrageously busy.

In all fairness, Miss High Heel had (and I use the past tense because MHH was a one-off project) a lot of good things in their favor– Tom Smith’s able production skills, Jim O’Rourke’s aesthetic, a Scissor Girl, and the entire Flying Luttenbacher lineup of the time. This is a mid-90’s avant-Chicago microcosm! Sounds like a “can’t miss” album, right?

Unfortunately, it’s kind of a bore. Walter does his usual kit-pounding, while Smith and Marlon Magas victimise some helpless microphones with improvised vocals rendered wholly incoherent by virtue of being overdriven. Often using Smith’s death metal-sourced sound collages for a backbone, “The Family’s Hot Daughter” is very difficult to focus on for any length of time– I find my mind wandering off to nearly anything else, the mental equivalent of holding on to a slippery bar of soap. There’s simply too much happening for this mid-fidelity recording to capture what might very have been fascinating in the studio.

On a handful of tracks, some synth or electronics work catches my ear. Of all things MHH, this alone seems to have a sense of purpose, and provides a nice counterpoint to the otherwise-rushed sounds. The liner notes credit Azita Youseffi and O’Rourke with the electronics work, so I’m definitely going to be seeking more in this vein from both of them.

Finally, I do appreciate the pair of live tracks appending the disc, taken from MHH’s early ’96 set at Magnatroid. Although the sound quality is far from spectacular, they give a greater idea of what this unwieldy creature sounded like in the wild– too awkward to live, too beautiful to capture.

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