By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
I can't hear this music and not think "early-'80s new wave girl-pop style," so I feel that the music is being applied rather than created, as if the sound were in place before anyone actually played it. Whether deliberate or not, there's a distanced effect. Maybe that's felt as some kind of strength, as if it says, "We're not what you see and hear; we're the puppet masters backstage, the ones pulling the strings." (Unexplained sentence fragment in my notebook: "rush of beauty on a whoosh of sound; this one the beauty lives deeper.")
For sure, all performers play with their identities. All human beings play with their identities, sometimes to find ones they like to inhabit, sometimes to find ones that are an interesting alternative to the ones that they normally inhabit. But why do Fabulous Disaster choose one so clearly and nonvirulently not now? Well, maybe for them it's what allows them to ride a whoosh into beauty. In fact, this is my favorite album so far this year. I perceive them at a distance, but I feel the high harmonies and the drum crash just fine. Anything that works.
Fabulous Disaster are just one of a slew of mostly female mostly good mostly retro punk bands I've been enjoying lately. Another is Detroit's Gore Gore Girls, who sound totally ripped and fried, not like go-go girlsat least not like go-gos onstage, though maybe like go-gos after stage, their minds fried and battered. Everything about the Gore Gores' Strange Girls (Get Hip Recordings) is fried. My eardrum got fried listening to them. Everyone seems to be playing Telecasters with the treble on superbright, the woofers and tweeters all torn up, the CD recorded in the girls' lavatory at Detroit's East Central Death and Atomic Warfare High School. The microphone has marbles in it. Occasionally, the girls grow weary of shredding their vocal cords, and come through with sweet, clear harmonies while the electric storm swirls around them. Since the sound is essentially slash-your-face-and-throw-rocks-at-the-window, it all registers as extreme punk; but the musical underpinnings come from several different sources: high-wailing girl group, early-Kinks freneticism, garage rock, rockabilly, girlabilly, rockagirly. And despite all the wind and sleet, there is form and beauty, amidst the gore. The ongoing storm has diminishing returns, howeverwith the needle always in red, a lot of the sound is muffled. But three songs stand out as incredible energy and great songwritingone might compare them to a certain great, long-defunct Detroit band that many groups are compared to but none really sounds like, and indeed the Gore Gore Girls don't have the whole dance-around-and-toss-the-notes-back-and-forth motion of said mythical band; but nonetheless on these three songs guitar-player Amy Surdu proves she's mastered James Williamson's fast guitar vamps and lightning melodies. Damn exciting, for those three songs, and restlessly sweet on many of the others. I'm curious what they'd do with a recording budget.
The Candy Ass Orgy EP is on Rock And Fucking Roll Records, though perhaps this is a Rock And Roll Fucking Record as well, given that the cover has the three Candy Ass women dolled up in fake furs and high heels in a police lineup. The promo page describes them as "tough sluts," which makes them a pleasant relief from all the gangsta bitches and street hoes I've been listening to recently. Like the Fab Disasters, these women have "style" as well as a stylethough with a discrepancy between the two, since the guitarist is playing a Pistols-Buzzcocks buzzsaw while the singer glides by in her limo, polishing her Debbie Harry sheen. It's a fun combination, energetic, spelling NASTY in capital letters, but it doesn't hit me with a lot of emotion. The stylization allows them to play at being shallow while also stepping aside and being . . . whatever you are when you're standing next to shallowness: shallow, maybe?