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The Donnas – Spend the Night

Atlantic Records, 2002

I saw the Donnas once at the Elvis Room in Portsmouth, NH before that colorful fire hazard closed down and was replaced with some kinda crafts store.  Anyway, the Donnas were quite young and yet had enough of an attitude so that despite being in front of a packed room of mostly men, they were able to show a lot of gusto and kept the creeps at bay.  The only thing that didn’t quite work out for them was the fact that when their last song played, Donna C (the drummer) quickly led the band to the back of the room.  This was the time that one (and perhaps the band) would expect the hand claps to get louder and louder in demanding an encore, but that never happened.  Everyone was content to leave.  Oh well … it doesn’t seem that the Elvis Room experience has held them back much as this fifth release shows the ladies in a comfortable pose on the album cover without much of a care.  They had clearly made it.

Oh, what had they made it with?  Well, image.  Anyone who comes by and wants to posture as Joan Jett is going to get press and the Donnas certainly capitalized on the idea that they were young, female and into the rock and roll.  Hey, I’m not complaining because I think that’s a great combo, but I was a bit surprised to see them on some of those VH1 specials.  Sheesh.  So despite the publicity they were getting in the faux music TV media, I wasn’t so sure that they had made it with an actual good sound.  Therefore, even though I had my reservations, I thought I’d pick this one up to hear what they sounded like four years after their stripped down, Ramones-ish debut record.

No matter what you think of the Donnas and their rise to popularity, they certainly can deliver the guitars, drums and attitude needed for a good rock record.  “Spend the Night” is absolutely polished up to the brim with production, but that doesn’t prevent it from being an enjoyably quick trip through thirteen tracks.  The girls blaze through songs like “Take It Off” and “Who Invited You”, the former of which was the single.  Based on the song titles alone, it’s apparent that the Donnas definitely utilize a strong dose of edge in their songs.  Lyrics like “Baby you come up to my waist/You need a barstool to get up in my face” make you wonder which one in the pajamas is ready to throw down with a little person at a moment’s notice.  I suppose that is where some of the charm comes from with the Donnas, for despite a sound that has been heard many times before at least they can be amusing to listen to.

Eventually all the songs begin to sound the same for most of the power riffs are used and re-used with some slight alterations.  I feel that “Dirty Denim” has nearly the same intro as “I Don’t Care (So There)”, which one may not notice so much with a song in between.  Both songs, by the way, are quite a good time.  Then there’s a song called “Take Me to the Backseat” which just, I think, is just a song about an unsuccessful ‘shotgun’ bid.  Oh wait no, the Donnas aren’t in high school anymore, I get it.  I imagine that with their success these are back seats of BMWs.  Can one fit easily back there?  As the rest of the record collides to an end, none of the songs truly stand out given their somewhat predictable template, but they are all full of energy and can be applauded for their enthusiasm despite their lack of originality.

The epic young lady rockers can be found on their website or heard on their MySpace site!

I suppose I should have seen all of this slicked up sound coming, for their previous record “Turn 21” was essentially an introduction towards their pursuit of harder rock.  All the punk from early on is most certainly gone at this point in their careers, which I suppose any growing band eventually does anyway because there’s only so much one can do with that sneering bit.  Heck, look at Green Day.  (shudder)  I wish they didn’t feel the need to make sure every instrument sounded exactly right and all songs are sung correctly, but I guess that’s what happens when you get into the money.  I still stand by the fact that we need more rock bands that don’t sound like they’re trying to get too fancy, so the Donnas will hopefully hold their ground for some years and influence the youth to start their own bands.  Until those youngsters put out something new and exciting, I encourage you to give a listen to the Donnas who are in their mid-twenties and are quickly becoming veterans of the mainstream rock scene.  Start with their earlier punk stuff though … it’s more fun anyway.

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