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Spider Cunts – Stuck Up -N- Mean

May 23, 2012 4 comments

Beer City Records, 2000

I couldn’t resist.  Sifting through yet another dollar bin I came across a band name that consisted of two words I thought I would never see together.  Spider Cunts.  Did the group members sit around one day and think about how spiders had sex, and then thought well, what about spider reproductive organs?  Let’s name ourselves after one of those?  No idea.  Since the four ladies of the band looked content (not angry, not vengeful) on the back cover photo I figured they were either holding something back or just wanted to get my attention with their band name (er, success!).  What amazed me after buying the disc was that when I looked the group up, they didn’t have a single review on allmusic.com or rateyourmusic.com.  I deemed that a travesty, so these next few paragraphs needed to be written.

Spider Cunts don’t get cute with the type of music they play, for a Beer City band should sound like they’re in-your-face rock and roll and, indeed, they are.  With songs like “Punch You in the Neck!” and “60 Stitches in 6 Weeks”, it’s immediately apparent this ain’t no pop band.  The first track of “Rage” is pretty much what the rest of the album sounds like with its chugging bass and simply chorded guitar.  As the song picks up into a sort of punk/hardcore hybrid, vocalist Amyl Nitrate shouts out about how angry she is.  Not she needed to explain herself, for the following songs of “Hey!” and “Scream 4” pretty much sound the same way both musically and lyrically.  You get the message about Spider Cunts immediately.

Unfortunately, even the songs that have more engaging (re: amusing) lyrics don’t separate themselves from the angrier songs.  “7 A.M. Love Affair”, a tune about two drunk people skipping the whole dating phase, is just more shouting.  “Brooklyn Lager” is the band’s tribute to their favorite brew, which is probably a better choice to screech about than Corona with lime or Stella Artois.  Of course, besides the lyrics the song sounds just like “Closed Deli Breakup”, “Boys With Morals 2000” and “Liquor, Heavy N Hard”.  In fact, if one stripped the vocals from every track I bet at least half of the songs are composed the exact same way.  Unfortunately there’s just nothing to distinguish each song from each other as they all mostly conclude in less than two minutes and the entire thing shoves you out the door in less than thirty minutes.  For a debut record I suppose such urgency to just get it all recorded without a nod towards variety is somewhat understandable given a new band’s excitement.  But given that one song is enough of an idea of how the whole record sounds, there’s really not much of a need to spin the whole thing through that often.

Spider Cunts can be heard on Last.fm, sure, but the live video is what you should see.

As excited as I was to see an all girl band named Spider Cunts, I just can’t say that this album lived up to my hopes of rock ‘n roll brilliance.  I guess I wished too hard for hooks and repeat spins, when all it really sounds like to me is a clumsily organized hardcore effort.  Perhaps if I had seen them live I’d appreciate their choice of music more, because I imagine the animated set would have made the band more impressive than the sound off of this disc.  As it stands, it comes across as boring regardless of some of the slick song titles.

Regardless of what I think of their music these days,Spider Cunts certainly could have been bigger during the early nineties when Hole, Sleater-Kinney, Bikini Kill and other grrrlish bands were popular.  But they came out in 2000, so nearly a decade after the movement was in its prime Spider Cunts had a go of it to see if anything was left.  As it turns out, they only put out one record … so I guess that answers that about the grrl movement of 2000.  By the way, looking further into the liner notes apparently Amyl Nitrate got knifed in the face by some guy named Thomas “Ducky” French and he was on the run.  It may be twelve years on, but I hope they got that Ducky guy.  He probably turned himself in eventually, for having a group named Spider Cunts after you likely isn’t good for your health now or later.

Plastiscines – LP1

September 21, 2011 Leave a comment

EMI Records, 2007

When the opportunity comes to pick up an album consisting of four young, lovely French ladies that play poppy rock ‘n roll, one must immediately put it away and ignore it.

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

I kill me. Alright, obviousness aside, let’s review.

The immediate comparison to these French ladies’ sense of two minutes or less style are the Ramones.  Maybe it should be more like Shonen Knife, though the pioneer Japanese lady punkers seem more poppy than the Plastiscines.  I guess the Plastiscines are a mix of both with their catchy, quick hooks and lighter topics.

The ladies tear right into a rousing “Shake (Twist Around the Fire)” that includes a slew of power chords that one has heard many times before.  It’s a good start, as “Alchimie” and “Loser” are stronger punk follow ups.  “Alchimie” is particularly fun with the rest of the band chiming in with “Comme tu sais!” (or ‘as you know!’) during the chorus while Katie Besnard sings.  Besnard’s singing voice reminds me a little bit of Elastica’s Justine Frischmann, though she doesn’t sound as sarcastic or bored as Frischmann sometimes did.  Also unlike Frischmann, Besnard’s delivery on “Le Regle Du Jeu” and “Tu As Tout Prevu” is as pointed and fresh as it needs to be on the more rapid punk tracks on the record.

Most of the songs are easily enjoyable, but half if not less are in English.  The lyrics aren’t too complicated (another Ramones trait there) as evidenced by the line “I can hear your boom boom heart” in “Mister Driver”.  “Under Control” pretty much consists of “Oh ah” and “Everything is under control” throughout its nearly two minutes.  Perhaps some of the French songs have more depth, though the cutesy sounding “(Zazie Fait De La) Bicyclette”, which translates to “Going for a bicycle ride”, gives me some doubts.

While the band mainly sticks to the same formula of hitting the listener quick with hard riffs and early exits, the group does take a few moments to be cheeky.  Like “Bicyclette”, “Pop In, Pop Out!” is a one minute pop song that consists of Besnard periodically popping in and popping out with a playful reminder of the song title.  As much as I’d like to believe that the Plastiscines will stick to their brief, uptempo tunes in the long run, it does sound like there is a possibility that they may eventually lean more towards the poppier side of things with these two winking asides.

Les Plastiscines from France can be heard on their MySpace website or read on their blog.  While you’re on the blog, go pick up a Plastiscines t-shirt to add to your le cool wardrobe.

Ladies or not, this sound is my kind of thing.  I like the short bursts of energy that can invigorate me after a few songs.  If they’re singing it in another language half the time, who cares?  I was certainly glad to see that the french quartet released a follow up album a few years later, so I’ll definitely have to go check that out sometime.  I’ll also have to do some research to see if the Plastiscines are the biggest band in France right now.  I mean, c’mon … who else has the looks and the hooks over there these days?  Air?  Vanessa Paradis?  Edith Piaf?  Get with it, France!

The Hissyfits – Letters From Frank

August 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Top Quality Rock and Roll, 2001

The cover of this record looks like someone had a heck of a time with their typewriter.  All the duplication of letters and even the inclusion of a star key seems to indicate that the person was all sorts of ticked off as to why their typewriter was giving them issues when they just wanted to type the name of the band.  That ‘h’ key looks like it particularly got sticky and the user was just mashing it repeatedly.  I do the same thing with Control-Alt-Delete on days when I have had enough of frozen windows and buggy software.  Wham! Wham! Wham!  So needless to say, I identified a little bit with the cover art as well as the thought that a band called the Hissyfits was probably going to be a good rock ‘n roll time.  So I picked the album up.  I figured I owed the frustrated typewriter guy that much.

The Hissyfits are a three piece, all lady band that specializes in punky pop rock.  Given that the three, full-square headshots of the ladies show them all to be smiling kind of makes sense with that kind of genre, since all the grrl and hard rock girls tend to grimace and look like they don’t want you talking to them.  Although the Hissyfits might have made themselves a little typecast, what they do defy are the conventional song lengths of pop rock.  Some of these songs usually stick around for three and a half minutes!  Either the band wants the listener to pay some attention to their valued lyrics or the band likes to pull a freebird with some instrumental dabbling.

The early songs on the album fulfill what I figured the Hissyfits were all about.  The opener of “Something Wrong 2001” isn’t a particularly strong track, with some room temperature rock tempo and a some very timid vocals, but it fits that cute energy the band was giving off from its cover.  “Baby” sounds a little better with the light vocals from the main singer (I’m assuming of the three vocalists, it’s the one who goes by ‘Princess’ aka guitarist Holly Jacobs), though the tune warms up with a sort of sixties-sounding duet exchange early on.  “Superstar” seems to continue where “Something Wrong 2001” left off, and though it has some pretty harmonizing over the power riffs, I’m still waiting for the stand out track.  Unfortunately, the songs are starting to get longer …

When looking over the time stamps of the songs beforehand, tracks that I was weary of listening to were “So Sweet”, “Bloodsugarsister”, and “Giant Ants” since they all lasted longer than four and a half minutes.  I thought oh man, what kind of pop rock song lasts that long and retains its interest?  Well, it’s a mixed bag.  I think “Oh Sweet” is actually one of the stronger songs on the record with its grim, urgent tone and uncharacteristic seriousness from the Hissyfits vocalists.  The build up and chorus sound engaging, though at about three minutes one could easily argue that the song begins to overextend itself.  When the guitar takes over and the chorus repeats itself periodically without anything new, a casual fan of the song could begin to edge that finger closer to the skip button.

Unfortunately, the other two tracks don’t fare as well.  “Bloodsugarsister” starts off really slow with some really light vocals, yet thankfully picks up after about a minute and a half.  The song itself isn’t all that interesting to wait out the rest of it.  “Giant Ants” suffers from a chugging riff that just goes on and on while one of the singers ‘raps’ about Bruce Lee.  It is apparent she’s been labeled a vocalist so as to fit in, but really, it may be because the band is still trying to figure out who in the group can actually sing.  You either have the rapper girl who can’t sing, the very light vocalist who sometimes is overdone by the rockin’ raucaus, and the incognito vocalist who seems to prefer to stay in the background.  Despite all the noise going on, it’s the vocalists as well as the over-extension of the song that makes it forgettable.  The Hissyfits just do better when the songs don’t require a marathon length.

Speaking of short songs, I think one of the better tracks on the disc is the thrashing “Lock ‘N Load” that nearly ends the album.  It completely stands out as some kind of lark by the band given that nothing else matches its tempo, but it probably fits the band’s namesake most accurately.  The band quickly moves on back to its usual slower speed with “Today is the Day”, though this time Jacobs’ vocals are all fuzzed out.  It certainly gives it a nice summer feeling, especially with some summer thoughts-inducing hand claps included.  The song ends up as a nicely calming ending to a somewhat confusing album.  Oh by the way, the song is nearly five minutes long.

If you must hear some pop rock by three or so women *right now*, well, have a listen at Last.fm.  (Edit:  Unfortunately, their old website is down as of 2013.)

The Hissyfits have gone through quite a few lineup changes in their time, though the lead guitarist Holly Jacobs has been the consistent element.  Either way, the band hasn’t put out a record since this one and, though the band toured for a few years afterward it unfortunately looks like the Hissyfits have thrown their last tantrum.  As promising as the Hissyfits looked when I picked up this record I can’t say it fulfilling delivered, though I would have been interested to see what the group put out next to see if they got a little more exciting.  As it is, the Hissyfits left some fun untapped on the floor amidst the toy wreckage.

The Donnas – Spend the Night

April 5, 2010 Leave a comment

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.

The Sirens – Self-Titled

December 8, 2009 2 comments

Get Hip Recordings, 2004

Four women dressed in vinyl clothing and boots posing rather nonchalantly on the cover.  Big explosion graphics are blaring behind them.  One of them is wearing a bright red outfit that has a devil on it with the line “Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide”.  You’re going to leave this in the dollar bin?!  I certainly didn’t, because even if it turned out to be one loud, overhyped production of feeble swill I was certainly impressed with the visual introduction.

The Detroit-based Sirens turn out to be a fiery, heavy-hitting rock band that turns up the amps on some classic, and not so classic, glam rock songs.  The first one off the disc was the perfect tune to rival the pop of the cover art.  The Sirens’ version of Gary Glitter’s “I Didn’t Know I Loved You (Till I Saw You Rock and Roll)” is one of the heaviest, powerful songs I’ve ever heard blare out from a female-led rock band.  I’ve heard harder and louder, but none that matches up to actually being any good.  This cover really encapsulates what the Sirens bring, which is loud power riffs, in your face attitude, and the harsh rock chick vocals of a lead singer named Muffy (the one in red, as it so turns out).  Through some research it sounds like a much beefier Glitter version, but is very very similar to a Rock Goddess version.  Either way, I love the song as it just kills.

Other covers on the record are nearly just as fist pumping if not certainly fist tapping.  The cover of “Chez Maximes”, originally done by the Hollywood Brats, is a great, energized version of a tune not very well known.  The Sirens also do a strong rendition of Suzi Quatro’s “Glycerine Queen”, which is only fitting for them since they pick out Quatro as one of their influences on their website.  The group sometimes doesn’t stick with the glam, as they cover an oldie by Joy Byers entitled “Ain’t Gonna Cry No More” which sounds like it probably had a poppier sound originally but now has a lot more edge.  Truth is, none of these tracks lays down and dies as a piece of unlistenable filler.  If one ignores the fact that the Sirens merely a cover band, one could certainly think that this was a record from a band that was an exciting godsend of an all-girl quartet not seen since the Runaways.  In 2004, if I had heard of these ladies then, I’d have moved immediately to (a nice, plushy suburb of) Detroit!

Check them out on Myspace:  The Sirens

Unfortunately, it appears that the Sirens are no more given the fact that they haven’t updated their MySpace page and their main band address is shot.  They did manage to put out another record and never got away from doing covers.  This fact, along with the heavy rotation of group members, may have been the reason for the end of the Sirens.  It’s a pity, for this debut record really invoked a powerful combination of heavy glam rock that there doesn’t seem to be much of these days.  Perhaps Detroit will think of something else.

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