Sometimes it’s a civic duty to administer a sound thrashing to the deserving. In this case, we’re speaking of the Los Angeles punk-metal band Betty Blowtorch, who ask, “Are you man enough?” Certainly, girls, even at the price of being judged mean and thoughtless.
Betty Blowtorch are the latest to be awarded press mulligans only because they are claimed to be—unstrap your brainless meme Geiger counter, now—”girls who rawk.” We’ll let slide the fact that they sound as unspectacular as a good dozen boy bands of the same stripe in Hollywood because, because, well, they’re wimmen, gulp! And it’s empowering and righteous and everyone knows femmes metales don’t get a fair shake . . . give me a poke when it’s over, will ya?
Even this wouldn’t be enough to merit a kick in the undertrousers if it weren’t for the band’s reluctance to get down to it without immediately resorting to camp or over-the-top bluster as hedges against being taken for true believers in that foolish metal stuff. It’s way too common an ailment, by no means exclusive to girl bands. Nonetheless, Betty Blowtorch spend so much time administering exaggeration for its own sake—in this case the imagery of blood-pumping, guitar-playin’ fuck-monsters—that they never get around to spitting out a good, unselfconscious riff. It’s like this, folks: To carry off a Ted Nugent-esque shtick, it’s helpful to play the instrument like Ted Nugent, or somewhere in his ballpark, anyway. Winking at the audience won’t fill the gap.
“Hell on Wheels,” their first song out, is representative of the whole wretched problem. It sounds almost gangbusters as a nondescript but high-voltage speed stomp. However, it trashes this small pleasure as soon as Bianca Butthole (case in point: Can you say that without smirking?) launches into one of her framing Nugent-isms: “We’re a bunch of horny fuckin’ bitches!” At which point, a band might aspire to furnishing a higher level of rhythmic ax throwdown, along the line, perhaps, of “Yank Me Crank Me.” (Which, by the way, invests most of its effort in working up a ferocious honky-tonk lick.) Instead, you get way too much damned Ramones and 10 seconds of Vanilla Ice shouting nonsensically through a fuzztone about his “long white dick.”
Almost all of Are You Man Enough? is ruined by Dead Milkmen-with–juiced–amps–and–leather–pants delivery. “No Integrity” and “Big Hair, Broken Heart” are worth repeat listens because they aren’t heavy rock. The former flies as one-off power-pop, Tsar without the grievous case of undescended testes; the latter as a wistful song that leaks some sincerity, the grip of the arch slipping a little. Do the girls miss Quiet Riot and Whitesnake? Or are they really just scrabbling character actors who’d tell you they had “666” tattooed on their tits at a shop in Noho if they thought it would produce a laugh and a mention of how much they “rawked”?
Memo to a&r at label: four copies of Full Bluntal Nugity, earmarked “research.”
(Kittie, the Donnas? Man, don’t get me started.)
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 14, 2001