Bars, Wars, Flaming Cars

Lady-led local bands venture onto the Bush Tetras' streets

Twenty-four years after local lady-led no wave geniuses the Bush Tetras released their stripped-down, indisputable punk-funk proclamation "Too Many Creeps," Bat Eats Plastic take up the mantle with "Citibeat," a jangly, shaking ride through the noisy terrain of plural genres that laments—in the acerbic, discontented manner of Tetra Cynthia Sley, and rounded out by fuzzy, alternately discordant and gorgeously spaced- out interludes of wacky guitar—all those "topless bars and flaming cars" in the dissolute city.

"I'm going crazy, oh yeah": This is essentially what the Tetras were saying too. Bat Eats Plastic (they claim there's nothing behind the name, although "we like the Plastic Ono band") are headed by a Lower East Side pair: former math-rocker David McClelland—whose other, even more avant band is called, uh, Irritating HorseEye—on keyboards and guitar; and painter Millie Benson, ex-frontwoman of the all-girl outfit Heroin God Music, who plays guitar and sings in a chilled, slightly dour voice that sometimes edges toward a goth sweetness. These two are music geeks, not rock stars. They spent years mining the less listenable in instrumental, minimalist, and improvisational bands; as their bassist declares, BEP are "the closest any of us will go to accessible." So Reconnoitre (an EP compiling songs from two earlier albums) sheds the burdensome artiness, offering in addition to the dark, choppy city beats some lovely, layered pop, as the languid "Lazy" and "Today."

Another female-fronted local group sharing an ancestry in Joy Division, an excellent single, and a horrible name is Man in Gray—a Mission of Burma meets Sonic Youth affair with two guitarists and a singer who is aiming to be a rock star. Twenty-two-year-old Tina DaCosta, their website says, "was a field hockey player and she also sang opera in high school. It was fun, but then she moved to the city and discovered that screaming her guts out and losing her voice was a lot more fun." DaCosta—backed by a bevy of talented boys—does anger well (she loves Sleater-Kinney, Le Tigre, and the Lunachicks) but she's also good at pretty (she loves Nico). The No Day/No NightEP shifts from forceful pop adorableness in the infectious breakup tune "Brakelights" (complete with little yelps and a quick, charming guitar solo), to the ominous (but finally funny) "Neighbors," in which the crescendo is a chorus of dudes screaming "I watch them!" (Too many creeps, huh?) Best of all is the clamorous, repetitive, Clash-like "Incommunicado," matching "Citibeat" in its scrutiny and intensity. In this anti-war number (MIG are an outspoken member of Bands Against Bush), DaCosta's enormous vocals grow furious, sharp, and fast. She yells "emergencies!" as the song pushes forward chaotically; "recall the war" is her rallying cry.

Bat Eats Plastic music geek Millie Benson
photo: Mindy Tucker
Bat Eats Plastic music geek Millie Benson


Bat Eats Plastic play Tonic February 28.

 
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