She's Not There (Not Anymore, Anyway)

I'll never doubt you again, Goddess! She Mob came to my mailbox as a promo disc earlier on, whereas I'd deliberately ordered the newly issued She set (paid own $$) from an oldies catalog, because the blurb made it sound "interesting." Only after they'd taken over my player's deck time with back-to-back spins did I realize that the paranormal parallels between the two don't stop with their names. Both are all-female (save one token Y-chromo in She Mob), both hail from northern California, both play highly catchy and intelligent thwack-rock of their own composition, both could be described as "lo-fi" in sound (only if you think that's a problem), neither works for one of the four remaining music conglomerates . . . but the punch line is that these separated-at-birth albums were recorded 30 years apart!

True stories. She was founded by Sacramento teen Nancy Ross in 1964, as the channel of her post-Beach Boys-concert-night dream of "a group of girls on stage." Nancy recruited her little sis Sally Ross-Moore and several other friends; they secured the requisite r'n'r instruments and figured them out, and set out to realize Nancy's vision. She (originally "Hairem") became a popular live act around their hometown in the late '60s, especially in NCO clubs at nearby military bases. The band underwent numerous personnel changes, leaving the two siblings as the only permanent members, but remained proudly all-female. Despite interest from Liberty and Capitol, She didn't secure a record contract until 1970, when the r&b-oriented Kent label released their "Boy Little Boy"/"Outta Reach" single. It got some airplay in California, but the group dissolved the next year.

She's Wants a Piece of Youcompiles that single and 17 previously unreleased cuts recorded at various stages of existence. Cueing it up is like falling into a still-unplundered Queen Tut's Garage of punk treasures, as She's lack of a record contract kept these candidly raw cuts from being messed with by male-or-otherwise producers. Kent tried, persuading She to do the sweetly shuffling, archaic "Boy Little Boy" for maximum commercial potential, but the single's ostensible B side, "Outta Reach," which the band had been playing live for years, is the She who should'vebeen obeyed. It issues directly from that pleasure zone where Farfisas still pump, as Nancy Ross, the band's chief composer-vocalist-guitarist, infuses her love of the exalted-boy Stones and Doors with an instinctively feminasty attitude—She were already riot grrrls before rock criticism had even set up shop.

Grown-up California grrrls she mob
photo: Kyle Craven
Grown-up California grrrls she mob

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Wants a Piece of You
Big Beat import

She Mob
Cancel the Wedding
Spinster Playtime

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Their "Like a Snake," delivered in that Juicy Fruit-bikerette voice Ross could readily summon up, is one long snarl of simultaneous celebration and ridicule of the white worm, and the next cut, "Piece of You," delivers the aftergrowl: "It doesn't matter what you say or do/The man keeps trying to make a mess of you!" "Not for Me," She's attack on easy conformity, is all snot assertion: "Don't wanna be/Any part of the mass!" Even the descending-moan self-hatred of the lurid "Bad Girl" sounds like it'll be over by morning, when there'll be new attitudes to cop. Their "Don't Leave Me Baby," with its squeezed-lemonade organ fills, could be a 15-years-earlier Human Switchboard, and the jumpy bass-amped "Come On Along" is a virtual Blondie prequel in its sassy peroxide vocal. "Satan's Angel" might even be described as the product of a secret marriage between Merrilee "Angel of the Morning" Rush and Reg "Wild Thing" Presley—but wouldn't youhave lain down on that fertile bed if you only could've?!?

Thirty years on, with ever so many consciousnesses (F & M) raised in the meantime, the womyn of San Francisco's She Mob rock on with the kind of semiobscure purity once lived out by their forewenches in She, releasing their own material until big companies catch on. The newer band is less dominated by one focal presence, as Sue Hutchinson and Diane Wallis trade lead vocals as well as guitar and bass slots. Whoever's singing—Hutchinson in her expressive gush, Wallis as a kind of litterbox-trained Nico, or drummer Lisa McElroy—the homemade lyrics are clever and funny slices of everyday lives carried on beneath the radar of the daily orgies atop the stock market, in humbly passionate rooms where people take Prozac and are sometimes reincarnated as puppies. Let's just call She Mob "passive-resistance grrrls."

The voices alternately soar and then converse in manic harmonies, while insistent skrotch from guitars and bass and drums keeps you anchored to the eternal beat. The under-a-minute "Luge" sounds like Pere Ubu going bicoastal if not binary, while "I Took the $" gets down to brassy attacks: "I know that you know/That I know that you know/He says that I'm away." "Teacher" boldly admonishes the Newtocrite males who continually defame the profession that it's no walk in the sandbox. The members of She Mob are already in their thirties (only if you think that's a problem), so they may have shed some precocious illusions along the way, but their cheek and smarts are just as cheeky and smartass as those of She, who recorded during their true-blue teen-and-twenties years (but who are actually older than She Mob in real-time ages by now). Got that?

Big Beat, www.acerecords.co.uk;

Spinster Playtime, www.shemob.com

 
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