The ground rules--we will review any record by a band that has at least one girl (grrrl, gurl, gerl, girly, girlie...). So therefore, all the bands reviewed in this section and those that bands that we recommend are our favorite spins by bands with at least one girl (grrrrl, gurl, gerl, etc.). Wasn't that hard? You'd be surprised. We reserve the right to change this policy for any reason.
"Viva La Megababes"
OK, boys and girls...keep in mind that this glowing review is coming from the twisted pen of someone who enjoyed Lulu's version of "The Man who Sold the World" just about as much as, if not more than, Nirvana's. So with that in mind, you can rush out and BUY the extended megasingle of "Viva la Megababe," or you can avoid it like the plague, calling them "Shampoo-poo" as a certain friend of mine does. (I'm not even going to get into the peculiar botched Francais here...surely someone could've told them "la" is singular while "megababes" is plural, but somehow, I don't think these girlies could care less. Prolly just retort their patented battle cry, "Wanker!! Double Wanker!!!! BOTH HANDS!!!") Shampoo consist of two skoolgirl chums from Plumstead, England--Jacqui (supposedly 19) and Carrie (supposedly 17) who enjoy wearing their hair in pigtails and sporting mini-tees with POW!! and BAM!! written on them, Batman style. Their cockneyesque accents are, as they say in the Crying Game, as thick as treacle...thicker even than "Ange," the friendly neighborhood barmaid on Eastenders. Shampoo are already over in England, but if you just now hopped into that mohair sweater craze or are still wearing little plastic butterfly barrettes (and i see that a lot of you are) then this bubble gum bratrocker duo could be for you. The backing music is like Stock, Aitken, & Waterman gone punk--remember Rick Astley, late Bananarama, or Kylie Minogue circa "Locomotion"? Well, picture them with a huge snotty attitude problem that beats out even Oasis. Shampoo broke onto the charts in England with their anthem "School is Booooooring." Subsequent articles in Melody Maker document them barfing on a minibar, writing stuff like "SHAMPOO RULE!" YAH!!!" in lipstick on bathroom mirrors, stomping all over and killing ancient cactus and other sordid spoiled skoolgirl/popstar antics in a Paris hotel. I think the lyrics rilly speak for themselves s here's a sampler... we got shades pulled down on the escalator/ we're blonde haired teenaged terminators/ cameras watching when we go shopping/ better step aside cuz we just ain't stopping!!! Then there's the classic "We're itchy, we're bitchy, we're gettin kinda mad..." from "Girls 'round Here." What can I say...Shampoo totally rule the world and I want to see them whip Letters to Cleo's ass in a meringue pie fight or something. As i-D put it: they're Kylie -meets-the Sex Pistols. ---AmyD.
(Ed note: Since we sat on our butts for so long, there is now a full length release by Shampoo called "We are Shampoo" on Virgin. It contains some but not all of the tracks listed here. Don't forget to tell 2 friends, and they'll tell 2 friends, and so on and so on...nevermind, shampoo humor is never easy.)
K Records (box 7154, Olympia, WA, 98507)
A complete stranger is unexpectedly revived from a twenty year coma. By some cruel twist of fate, she is informed that she has only about one conscious hour to live. She is offered various indulgences, all of which she blatantly refuses. Besides the doctors, I am the sole witness to this twisted miracle. Rather than contact someone from her distant past, she wants only to experience something that will explain the world she exists in at that very moment. By mere chance, responsibility falls to me. Several possibilities come to mind, many of which are implausible due to time and accessibility. I do, however, have access to a CD player and various CDs. I pop Alien Id into the player, press play, and leave the room. When I return, I find the woman very near death, unable to speak. I stare deeply into her eyes and ask if she is content. She nods, smiles knowingly, closes her eyes and dies. (I could pick any number of aspects of this album to remark on but, if you don't take the opportunity to hear it for yourself, you are truly missing out on something great). ---AimeeC.
Chainsaw (po box 42600, Portland, OR, 97242)
"We made this so that you will say 'I can do better than that' and then you will." Obviously altering the meaning, I opt to drop the "than that" and say this album makes me think that I can do better (&more). In other words, I find it EMPOWERING! I could describe the sound, reveal the subjects it confronts or tell you how this album makes me feel but, I won't because it would be too personal. (Yeah, what a stupid thing to write in a record review), too bad. Don't feel cheated, I pondered (through an ashtray full of butts, a wastebasket of crumpled papers, a bloody fingernail) what to write about this. I realized that nothing I could (or would choose to) say would amply portray my conception of this album. In a sense, I feel contradictory reviewing it at all. "And this record is because without community there is just the same white dick that cums that same salty cum over & over & over & over again", if you have some version of this in your head, you should probably check this record out. (Features members of Kicking Giant and Bikini Kill) ---AC
Kill Rock Stars (120 N.E. State Ave., #418, Olympia, WA, 98501)
Wanted by the F.B.I for momentous federal crimes (recording copyrighted videos), destined for execution, I wait. As I doze off for the first time in weeks, my dreaded visitors arrive at my front door. Astonished, I leap out of bed, grab "Nice Ass", and plunge from my Sixth story window. I begin running briskly through my back lot, dodging bullets fired from helicopters above. Miles later, I near the entrance of a deeply wooded forest. I look back to catch a glimpse of the armed militia charging toward me. Just yards away from the possibility of escape, I feel the record slip from my fingers. I pause briefly, consider execution and life without Free Kitten, and hastily scurry back to retrieve the album. As I clutch my fingers around it, I realize that my pursuers are within firing range. I shut my eyes and mechanically shield myself behind the record. Several shots ring out and I feel by arms blow back many times. Suddenly it becomes silent. Shocked to be alive, I peek over the top of my shield. To my wonderment, hundreds of soldiers lie lifeless on the ground before me. I turn the album over to find countless bullet holes through the cardboard case. I examine the vinyl thoroughly, finding it scratchfree. A few days later I come across an abandoned mansion. At first glance, I expect it to be completely empty. Upon further investigation I discover a soundproof, active studio with cutting edge sound equipment. I put on "Nice Ass", pop open the bottle of champagne chilling at my side, sit back and indulge in my liberation!!! ---AC
Come out, come out
Mint Records (#699-810 W. Bway, Vancouver, B.C V52 4C9)
You probably won't spend hours pondering whether or not 'come out, come out' was a wise investment, either it will catch you from the start or leave you sorely disappointed. Covering the go-go's 'Vacation' seems utterly appropriate for this lyrically witty, upbeat, all-female, Canadian trio. Make no mistake, the choice was by-no-means unintentional. Complete with whistles, yelps, and tra-la-las; this band is about fun! The songs are short, quick and generally lighthearted. Although each instrument feeds into the mix, the bass seems to be in control at almost every turn. Highlights include: the addition of organ on 'Everything's Geometry', an extremely romanticized ode to 'New York City' and, of course, a speedy version of 'Vacation'. Don't be surprised if you find yourself singing along, even at first listen. ---AC
Slumberland Records (po box 14731, Berkeley, CA, 94712)
Raw-sounding, live appeal. Lots of (thunderstorm, war zone) distortion, particularly at introductions and conclusions of songs. Interesting opposition between soft, melodic vocals and tough, distorted instruments. When the instruments seem to be signaling for screams, the voice remains calmly melodic (aside from an occasional rise in tempo). Unfortunately, at times the vocals seem to get buried beneath the instrumental fury but, overall the variation works well. At the very least, this is interesting material. ---AC
Bet the Sky
You can 'bet the sky' that this trio likes to talk about love, the theme overrides much of the album. (In the first half of the album either 'love' or 'heart' turn up at least once in each song). The songs are lyrically simple and direct as are the themes about love: show me you love me, I love you even if you don't love me, love dies...The guitar and drums work together in near-perfect, 'loving' harmony. At times the drums jump in to finish the guitar line and vice-versa (note 'flamer'). Vocally powerful, musically tight, but the love-sick theme gets a bit tired if your not particularly interested. ---AC
Mary Lou Lord
Mary Lou Lord
Kill Rock Stars
Vocally powerful, insouciantly melodic, somewhat overly consistent. The first track, 'Lights are Changing', is the only non-acoustic song on the album (Juliana Hatfield sings back-up). The song is radio-ready, kind of theme-songish, rather catchy. The most culturally interesting track is 'His Indie World', a playful mockery of the exclusionary trendiness of the indie music scene set against Lord's "deep and gloomy" folk style. Complete with interesting, sometimes humorous, references like, "Doug and Lou and Calvin too. And Kim and Kim and Kim and Kim." I also liked 'The Bridge' for its more upbeat tempo and 'That Kind of Girl' for making be wonder. ---AC
Up Records (P.O. Box 21328, Seattle, WA, 98111)
Overall, this band has a clean, sleek sound. Instrumentally the tempo shifts dramatically (frequent use of crescendo/decrescendo), while remaining vocally consistent. The powerful, melodic vocal's lack of tempo variation makes them prosaic at times but, make for an interesting contrast. The quick, steadfast drum beats are largely responsible for bringing the sound to life. There are some interesting featured bass lines and a few distinctive guitar segments. All-in-all, very tight and listenable (catchy). ---AC
Dutch East India Trading (po box 800, Rockville Centre, NY 11571-0800)
A whole new flavor of Hole! This Germs cover captures Hole at maximum acceleration, emitting pure energy throughout. Not-unlike the original, this version has a fast, quick (presto) tempo and sounds best at a deafening volume. Although similar to the original, differences in tuning and instrument roles (along with Love's unique, gut-wrenching vocal style) give this a distinctive twist. Difference in introduction: The Germs version begins with a super-fast solo drum beat, suddenly joined by guitar, bass, lead and backing vocals simultaneously. This version starts off with a guitar intro. followed by bass and drums, picking up the vocals last. If you like Hole or the original 'Circle one', it's pretty safe to assume you'll appreciate this. ---AC
"Disbelief"/"My Abortion" and "Laxative Cat"
Thrill Jockey (po box 476794, Chicago, IL, 60647)
Amazing stamina (particularly drums)! I especially like 'Laxative Cat' for it's engaging introduction (potent bass line joined by pulsing cow-bell beats) and the duel vocals (male, female-they might think about using this combination more). A high point, in 'Disbelief'; unified screaming of guitar and voice- extremely powerful. Lyrically, there are some interesting plays on words: "It's a beautiful thing, that's what beauticians say", "You should be circumstanced." Lots of energy packed into 7" of vinyl! ---AC
"Syphilis"/"Staple in the sun"
merry dogger (83 plymouth st., montclair, nj, 70742)
Besides the bassist/singer, this is an entirely different band than the other 7". This time the drums are on the back burner (frankly, the prominent drum beat was what I liked best about them before). Anyhow, in 'Syphilis' there is an interesting contrast between instruments and vocals (instrument mashing, pause, vocals...). Similarly, in "Staple in the sun," there are various distinct segments (spoken word with voice alteration, instruments mixed with screaming vocals, bass, saxophone/drum, spoken word/bass...). ---AC
"I need it/"Fuck my Head"
Yeah, three singles by Vitapup. We love Vitapup and so should you. The band is on hiatus right now while Melissa ("Yes, I'm a carpet muncher") York drums for Team Dresch. And Melissa can really pound those drums. See them live, buy all their records, they're grrrreat!
Atlas (po box 7481, Olympia, WA 98507)
If at first this seems too serene for you, stay tuned! Most of the songs start off with a slow, rhythmic, prominent-vocal segment then, undergo an abrupt shift to a more intense, robust sound. The frequent shifting back and forth between elements makes for an engaging mixture. One crucial ingredient in the recipe is the exceptional application of a second (background) vocal line (listed as "screams"), which joins forces with the lead vocal line for a powerfully impassioned effect. Particularly liked 'Despise' for it's dramatic tempo changes and 'Imaginary friend' for it's most-successful use of background "screams". -AC
Check out Excuse 17's latest lp of grrrl-punk and politics called "Such
Friends are Dangerous" on KRS.
Kill Rock Stars
I'm told that Phranc was once in a punk band, but if punk is defined by growls, sputters, and shrieks, then Phranc has to be the Petula Clark of punk rock. Her voice is so fluid and graceful that it sort of sounds like the singers on my Romper Room records when I was a kid. Is that mean? I'm not trying to be mean. I like the soft gentle grain of her voice, especially since it comes from one "very very butch lesbian" and if I had my way gender dysphoric folksingers would inherit the earth. Goofyfoot includes a number of great cuts, but my fave is the cover of "Ode to Billie Joe" with one red hot Patty Schemel drumming in accompaniment. But coming in a close second is "Bulldagger Swagger" about gender rebels and the problems they face in everyday situations like say when a butch dyke is thrown out of the women's bathroom. And remember, don't you ever call her sir, well, outside of the bedroom, that is.
Hard for Measy for You
Ecstatic Peace (Forced Exposure, PO Box 9102, Waltham, MA, 01254)
Being that this album was co-produced by Julie Cafritz and appears on the Ecstatic Peace label, it is no profound insight to mark it's resemblance to Free Kitten. This is not to imply that Guv'ner are, by-any-means, rip-off artists. In fact, the similarities begin and end with the lyrics (this duo has their own unique sound). Like Free Kitten, Guv'ner's titles and lyrics are lighthearted and amusingly witty (admittedly, a rare lyrical trait however, it would be ridiculous to say that it belongs exclusively to one band). Both members of Guv'ner share in vocal responsibilities, sometimes separately, sometimes harmoniously (Charles, the male member, sings more often). The guitar and bass are equally potent forces, which sometimes seem to engage in conversation, while the drums seem to stay in the background (possibly hence, the first track 'Drummer Want-ad'). ---AC
"Fine Day for Sailing," "I'm still Crying"/"I Just Do," "Bigger Than an Ocean"
YoYo Recordings (po box 10081, Olympia, WA, 98502)
Ummmm...Clean, consistent, upbeat sound. Vocals are simultaneously cheerful and gloomy; childlike yet, seasoned. I probably wouldn't be the first person in line to buy their latest release but, if someone played it for me I'd ask for a copy. -AC
OK, Aimee doesn't go for the Twee stuff but I do. I die every time I hear Rose Melberg's voice. I still play Tiger Trap so much that my neighbors are plotting my death they are so sick of hearing the Sour Grass EP. What I'm saying is that any combination of Rose from Tiger Trap and Amy from Henry's Dress is to die for. So with that in mind, check out their latest release, a 4 song 7" ("Long Distance," "Windy," "Blue Sky," "The Boy who Sailed around the World") on Slumberland Records.
It's Rose again....sigh. The Softies are just a duo composed of Rose and Jen Sbragia and the songs are filled with vocal harmonies and atmospheric guitar tracks reminiscent of some of the best 4AD stuff. it's really mellow, really pretty, and shouldn't be missed.
"You Ain't it!"/"Surf Song"
Villa VillaKula (po box 1929, boston, ma, 02205)
"Keep the faith and new bands will appear", trust in them and they'll endure! (And in a perfect world, they'll all be as commendable as sleater-kinney). Three players, two guitars, one pulsing drum beat, two vocal parts (one melodious, one awesomely vociferous), two superior tracks ('You Ain't it!' and 'Surf Song')!! With any luck, more to come soon.... -AC
and if you wait long enough to get your zine out, more will
Uniting Corin (ex of Heavens to Betsy) and Carrie (currently of Excuse 17), Sleater-Kinney press on in the now well-worn grrrl tradition of unflinchingly honest lyrics about sex, politics, abuse, love, hate, and survival. But they add a twist to the genre by churning out some mighty nifty surf rock guitar tracks. But what makes Sleater-Kinney great is Corin's voice. She possesses a voice that is squeaky, harsh, and acid. She grinds out lyrics that make my bones chill not just from the gorgeously harsh sound, but from the recognition that as I shout along with her when she spits out the punk mantra of the moment, "I don't owe you anything" that no matter how much I sometimes resist it, her struggle is the same as my own and I'm glad I'm not alone in it.
Rock Stars Kill
Kill Rock Stars
First, there was 'Kill Rock Stars', then came 'Stars Kill Rock'! This is the third (hopefully not last, though the words can't be phrased in any other order except Rocks Kill Stars, which requires pluralizing Rock) in the series of Kill Rock Stars compilations. Personally, I think all three are essential and should be kept on heavy rotation. This one has twenty-three tracks, more than it's predecessors, by twenty-three bands (who "Don't want to be rock stars"). If you aren't a millionaire but, like to check out lots of new bands, this is a great way to hear a variety of music without spending hundreds of dollars. Don't take other people's word for what's good, you decide. Guarantee you'll discover something your looking for!!! If you already have the other two, you know you have to buy this one. -AC
Songs of Drinking and Rebellion
Running through Spent's shimmering sad soundscape are the echoes of all the music that has ever been my savior-- glimmers of the Smiths, jangles of the Feelies, a slight hint of the Replacements ala "Unsatisfied." Unlike the Smiths or the Replacements though, Spent's nihilism isn't so total, so overwhelming that there is nowhere to go but deep into the ache of one's darkest despair. Instead it's more like living in a de facto state of disillusion without the will to be bitter, angry or to place the blame squarely on anyone or anything. Life according to Spent may very well be one long, slow march toward doom, but the loosely surging guitars manage to provide a few sparks of hope as riffs occasionally tear through the gloomy half light proving that nearly every one of Spent's clouds has a silver pop lining and that though they sing about "drinking myself to death" they really aren't quite that low, that lost. The vocals stop far short of dissipation and are really sort of pleasant in their awkward offkey deadpan, even seeming at times a tad too happy for blood shot bleary eyed songs of drinking and rebellion. But hey in a pop landscape littered with Xanax and Prozac, Mazzy Star and Counting Crows, Spent is the perfect antidote, so go score some.
When I was a teen lesbian stuck in the farthest reaches of suburban hell my favorite song was Bronski Beat's "Small Town Boy". The words "the answers you need will never be found at home, the love that you need will never be found at home, runaway, turnaway, runaway" reverberating through my brain in Jimmy Sommerville's falsetto as I sat at the bus stop waiting for the always late bus into the city. The city was freedom to be myself, to be a dyke with the safety of never having to face any of the people I met the next day in homeroom. It was the total bliss of anonymity. Or just freedom from the frustration of being in love with my best friend Helen and being tortured by every moment that we were together because I couldn't yet tell her I loved her. Or conversely, being tortured by every moment that we weren't together because all I could think about was her. Never have I heard a song by a dyke that could so totally capture the pain, the anguish, the frustration of being a teen lesbian stuck in the farthest reaches of suburban hell until I heard Kaia Wilson sing "When I was 14 I fell in love with her in metal shop/ she said Kaia come pray with me/we sat on her bed and we held our hands together/she told me I needed God, I told her I just needed her" in "Growing Up in Springfield." Crammed with bubbling bass lines, churning guitars, slamming drum tracks, and lyrics piled high with existential angst, Team Dresch rocks my world in a way that nothing else has. It's a perfect capsule of dyke life--the remedy for the days when after years of being out and proud and falling in and out of love that like Jody Bleyle "I can see a brave tomorrow when I might just leave this town after all these days and nights of anxious sadness left me tired and doubting everything I thought I'd found."
Virgin, but buy vinyl and support Drag City
Can I marry Jennifer Herrema? She's so cool. She even has a self-inflicted deviated septum that whistles. She totally rocks so much I can't even begin to explain it. She rocks and I don't, therefore, she rules and I suck. Oh yeah Royal Trux have many other lps that are better than this one (I say stick with Twin Infinitives), but none of them have nearly as much retro 70s bloat rock attitude. And somehow, I find that bloat rock attitude to be quite appealing. Perish the thought that I may yet end up liking the Rolling Stones. Oh yeah Neil Hagerty (no relation to Dan Haggerty aka Grizzly Dan) was in Pussy Galore which means he rocks to infinity too. Therefore, they rock and you don't, they're awesome and you suck.
The Red Aunts are like the anti-Elastica of souped up buzz driven punk. Their sound defies easy description or neat genre classification and when the band was asked in an interview to describe in their own words what their music is like, the all girl LA trio had this to say, "We're not happy. We're not upbeat. We like feedback. We like noise." Good enough for me, but for those of you who need a harder sell, #1 Chicken presents 14 extremely quick and zippy sounding songs in 23 minutes--the lyrics of the 14 songs are impossible to decipher but near as I can tell there is one song about murdering a Rollerderby Queen, another song about Peppermint Patty and one song of empowerment for misanthropic souls like myself who ask only to find that one special person to whom they can say "I hate everyone but you." And then there are 11 other songs...about god knows what, but whoa, they rawk! Still not convinced? How about lots of cool vocal squeals, guitar fuzz, and mighty fine bass work and even if you never figure it out, who cares? Cuz it's only 23 minutes of your life.
Scream of the Weak
Zero Hour (1600 B'way, Suite 701/NY 10019)
Kittywinder are a NY band of 4 girls and 1 guy who play sort of artsy, folk inflected, grunge punk. I'd hate to be in Kittywinder cuz, although they are a fine fine band, you can't help but compare them to the Throwing Muses (when it was still all in the family, that is). Songs like "Turn Your Insides" feature off-kilter vocal melodies that are so lush and dreamy that I can't help but think back to that RI art band I used to love. But Kittywinder deserve to be taken on their own merits and this 6 song EP that charts the gloomy side of girl life features popish guitar rhythms and a toe tapping beat that sort of work as a counterpoint to the heart of darkness lyrics, thus making Kittywinder while not the most flashy of bands, some pretty damn fine angst-ridden indie folk-rockers (whatever that means).
No Life Records
With happy go lucky songs about shag hair cuts and bubble gummy punk-tinged power-pop guitars, this is like the feel good record of the decade. A few seconds into the first cut and you already can't help but smile and bounce around like you're Tom Cruise dancing through the living room in his underwear in Risky Business. I know that's gross, but play the lp and think of me when you're jumping up and down on your sofa.
Outpunk (POB 170501, SF, CA, 94117)
"No Justice, No Peace" goes a popular protest slogan. The 8 songs on Drag King by the late Brit queercore militia group, Sister George, strike a similar pose. "100X NO" features the voice of convicted murderer or political prisoner (depending on your political outlook) Aileen Wuornos and the slogan, "We Kill in Self-Defense." There's a cutout on the liner notes reading "Queercore is an attitude problem." And the message of resistance is made all the more clear by a pic of a woman of color taking aim at a guy with a swastika on his chest and it's this sort of in yer face hyperbole that makes this lp on of the most liberatory and enjoyable listens I've had. It's a total take no prisoners splatter punk fantasyland and I highly recommend it cuz it kicks some serious butt. And the extra bonus--sound samples from Sarah Gilbert in Poison Ivy open the first couple cuts on the lp!!!!
"Mombies"/ "Feed Me" and "My Expense"
Kill Rock Stars
A groovy cross dressed pic on the record cover and three 3 swinging punk jams make me pray for more from this dyke powered trio. The standout cut is "Mombies" about trying to confront a brainwashed mother who will not listen to her daughter when the girl says "Won't you find the time to listen/Stop pretending that I fit in/Television eyes---they're empty/You don't even want to know me."
Emily's Sassy Lime
Right is Here
Xmas Records (1040 No. Fairfax #303, LA, CA, 90046)
Right is Here is probably the worst record I've heard in a long time and no one in the band can play a lick, yet I can't stop listening. What with references to 7-11s, malls, bad hair dye, fake manifestos on the liner notes, songs exploding into choruses of giggles, and slice of life tape recordings spliced into the middle of several cuts, Right is Here is the most genuine artifact of suburban teen boredom that I could ever imagine. Snotty attitude abounds, but that's just what makes Emily's Sassy Lime the ultimate teenage garage band. In fact it's so real, you almost doubt that it's real, like they're probably midget grad students or something. Never mind my paranoia, just don't miss it, or better make one of your own.
The Geraldine Fibbers
Lost Somewhere Between the Earth and Home
A beautiful voice--mourning, angry, repentant, struggling to tear free from it's past--comes to me in my despair and cries "There are songbirds and sweet things where angels bare wings and bask in the afterglow of good deeds down by tender souls, but I in my wretched state, fat from years of sucking hate, can never scrape the dirt off, can never shake the other side. It hides in holes behind my eyes." And I am not the only one to be haunted by a past. I imagine that the voice was born in the same ambiguities that animate my life. That husky rasp sputters, screeches, and by turns becomes soft and honey sweet, yet it is not a voice of either man or woman, but of one who dwells in between and who is constantly slip-sliding from one to the other. Desire flies free from convention while the heart never seems to know when to love or when to loathe all the assorted boys and girlies. Burned and spurned. "I'm ruined for love and I'm ruined for life." Where to turn when all else is gone? Lost and longing... not for anyone or anything, but for sleep, to be if not, dead, then deadened. The voice, beyond life and death, laments "I'll never be nothing, I'm ready to go." Too hopeless to live, too lazy to die. On the Fibbers first lp, straight ahead punk nihilism mingles with a sort of American Gothic backcountry whine to create a unique sort of perverted dark comedy that revels in yet scoffs at the assorted human tragedies in which the music was born.
Free to Fight
Candyass Records (Po Box 4238, Portland, OR, 97242)
This is a project organized by Jody Bleyle of Team Dresch after she and Donna Dresch were dyke bashed following a show. The record/cd features a host of punk, rap, folk, and spoken word performers mixed with self-defense lessons for girls, queers and other oppressed minorities. Accompanying zine has graphix and texts about empowering yourself to defend against and resist abuse. For the self-defense tips, alone, this is the sort of thing no one should be without--and remember be scary, not scared!
Tsunami's Jenny Toomey does some vocal acrobatics for your listening pleasure. Yes, you feel like it's all been conceived to make us ooohhh and ahhh over Jenny Toomey's voice and yes, I did. She's a diva, but so what when the result is this good, it's worth it.
Move into the Villa VillaKula
With cuts by Kaia Wilson, Tattletale, Azalia Snail, Sleater-Kinney, Ruby Falls and spoken word by Eileen Myles, this compilation doesn't have one bad song. Showcase release by Tinuviel (ex of Kill Rock Stars) for what promises to be the label to go to for the best material by some of the most creative and interesting women artists around.
Roaming through the same field as Mazzy Star Low shows them up as the gimmick that Mazzy Star really are. With songs that are spare, terrifyingly slow, and hauntingly abstract, Low are immortal. They inhabit another realm where time and space cease to exist. Low get inside your psyche and grind it to a halt only to start it up again, but this time your on their clock. Children will grow up, countries will be built and destroyed, flowers will bloom and die, and countless lifetimes will pass before the end of the first cut, but there is nothing you can do but lie there immobile before Low and their snail's pace. Deep down doesn't everyone want to be Rip Van Winkle at least once?
The first time I heard this lp I wrote it off as a giant Hope Sandoval sound-alike scam, but on my second listen Drugstore's songs of world broken, heart-broken sadness took on a life of their own. What may sound so gentle that it could probably lull the most bitter of souls is in reality not a pacifier at all. Drugstore's songs will not make you happy, but rather these are the sort of tunes that make you curl up under a blanket and pray to shrivel up into a comatose ball of pure dreams and pixie dust to be blown across the far reaches of the universe.
Yo La Tengo
There is of course no escaping the fact that at times Yo La Tengo seem more like a Velvet Underground Tribute Band than anything else. Which isn't to say that this is either a bad thing or a small achievement, it is merely to note a fact that part of Yo La Tengo's appeal is the knowledge that what you are listening to is always already, archaeology. Being a VU fan makes Electr-o-Pura's history lessons a near perfect trip. But VU aside, Electr-o-Pura also fulfills that part of me that is always longing, wanting, desperately needing that form of tenuous redemption that can sometimes be found in a fleeting moment of guitar feedback. It's a kick, a rush, a craving that has never seemed like a more worthwhile pursuit than it does when I listen to Electr-o-Pura.
The Dirt of Luck
Helium is a sort of quiet band and their appeal may not be immediately evident on the first listen. Rather, it's the sort of thing that sneaks up on you and before you really know how or why, you're in love with them. It's not that their noise inspired sounds aren't loud, but they are not raucous or bouncy, or anything that immediately hooks you. The heart of the band is guitarist/vocalist Mary Timony. Timony is not gonna strip, beat anyone up, or curse out her audience during a live show, but she will sing her heart out without resorting to hysterics, vocal acrobatics, or gimmicks. She just sings her lyrics in a refreshingly plain honest style that is easily overlooked next to the overworked "You Oughta Know" popism that is all the rage. There is much to love about Helium, not the least of which is that they have no need for bs. Maybe the fan who screamed out "Mary Timony is god" the last time I saw Helium play is right.
Vespa Sex 7"
I immediately love any band that dedicates a song to Albert Vespa, the inventor of the Vespa scooter, and then goes on to explain that the best kind of sex is with a scooter. And then there is "Powter Choice" a really great shouted rant accompanied by an abrasive noise collage which the liner notes tell us is about how Susan "Stop the Insanity" Powter is copping the punk dyke look (tho I like to think that punk dykes have gotten past the flashdance fashion look that Powter so loves, but hey it's a great song, who cares). Wacky, irreverent, political, radical, and fun, who could ask for more? Me, I want an lp!
There are lots of things I could say about Sonic Youth and this album. Like I could tell you how I used to worship Kim Gordon and never so much as blinked at Thruston Moore and now ever since I heard Thurston's song "Psychic Hearts" I've fallen in love with him even though he's married and I'm a dyke. Or I could tell you how much I now find myself worshipping Lee too. But instead all I can think about when I listen to Washing Machine is this thing that Greil Marcus wrote about mainstream rock ala 1975. He called it a form of retrenchment because the idea of survival replaced the experimentation, "adventure," and "risk" of the 60s. He said, "the deaths, breakdowns, and burnouts attendant upon the struggles and experiments of those times [the 60s] were converted into the cant watchword of the 1970s: 'survival.'...in almost every case signifying the offerings of performers who should have been stunned into an honorable silence years before, but who now found themselves granted the dispensation to purvey their wares forever and, what is more, to celebrate the act as a moral triumph, a triumph that devalued any effort to pursue adventure and risk. The exchange of a guarantee of dying of boredom for a guarantee of not dying of hunger was a good deal--the only game in town." But alas, nothing is a simple as it used to be. It's easy to kick a couple Rock N Roll survivors in the teeth but this is the age of living with being "at risk" and the cult of the survivor has never seemed more necessary. Can such latter day "survivors" as Courtney Love, Carla Bozulich, any member of Rancid, or the myriad of Riot Grrrl bands preaching resistance as a means of survival in a hostile society be dismissed so easily? In a world where I live through days shaped by the horrors of AIDS, substance abuse, random acts of violence, and suicide, surviving is nothing to be sneezed at. Enter Sonic Youth and their washing machine. Generally, I don't have really strong reactions to most rock--there have been lps that have made my world and to list them would only make you laugh, but when I first heard the material on Washing Machine at Lollapalooza, I knew that this album was going to be one of them. Thurston Moore has likened Sonic Youth to a washing machine that will cleanse listeners of all the mind poison to which they have been exposed. While it is a pretty pretentious claim, one listen to Washing Machine makes Moore's idea seem pretty right on. Washing Machine is a document of survival, of watching friends and family fall victim to a whole host of plagues and trying to make sense of a world where people implode and self-destruct in almost incalculable ways. Listening to "Becuz," "Junkie's Promise" or "Saucer-like" I hear the pain of one who is left behind to wonder what they could have ever done to help someone they love. Then there is the almost lamenting "Diamond Sea"--a song that sounds so sad that it feels like it couldn't have been born in anything but tragedy. Surviving is no longer always a "moral triumph," to survive is to be left with scars, bruises, to be haunted by the past and to be always living with things that one cannot escape. Washing Machine knows that, but it does not pander to the pain, it tries to take you out of it. The sonic bath of "Diamond Sea" or "Washing Machine" are redemptive, near transcendent experiences. At one of the Lollapalooza shows, I stood in the muddy pit and watched as one woman danced during "Diamond Sea" her palms and eyes raised up to the sky, totally tripping on the hypnotic lights and the trance-like sounds that surrounded her. That is close to what I feel when I hear "Diamond Sea"--embraced by a sort of empathy and blissed out in a dreamscape of feedback and distortion, I am free for a while. Maybe it sounds silly but when one is merely trying to survive, the comfort of one who says "I understand" cannot be overestimated and that is in no small way a part of my obsession with Washing Machine, an album that will also attest to the fact that to survive these days is the absolute opposite of dying of boredom.
Bands that rock our world
(but we didn't have room to review for you):