I Tell You I'm Sick of Oasis Just as Much as You
159 · 12 February 98
various: Girls! Girls! Girls!
Because I don't go to live shows much (and, moreover, because I almost never go to live shows by bands I don't already know), I always have a strangely skewed understanding of my local music scene. A band might have a massive, passionate local following, but if they don't put out records, the chances are good that I'll never have heard of them. To be honest, local rock scenes are one of those phenomena, like professional wrestling and representative democracy, that, though I concede readily that they exist, basically mystify me. Dingy local nightclubs are an abysmal way to see a band. The better the club, the better the band's equipment, and the greater the band's experience (and reputation, and thus the club's willingness to accommodate them), the better the sound quality of the show will probably be, but by the time those factors reach the stage where the band's live sound is on the same order of magnitude of intelligibility as a studio recording, the band is probably big enough that you heard them somewhere else first. Bands without albums, who are, tautologically, the ones for whom concerts are most essential as an exposure mechanism, will generally, often through no fault of their own (though sometimes they cooperate), sound terrible in concert. High volume and small spaces are an acoustic disaster, however popular the combination.
And yes, I understand that sound quality is often not the point. As any thirty-year-old who's left a club muttering, crossly, that the kids paid more attention to slam dancing than the music will have already observed, live rock shows, particularly by bands with even a tenuous connection to punk, have a significant communal-experience aspect that has nothing to do with arrangement subtleties and everything to do with celebrating whatever melange of quasi-political defiance, lifestyle idiosyncrasies and wide-eyed aspirations currently constitute Youth. A big part of the point of concerts is that there are other people there, having the experience with you. The volume of rock shows is as critical an element of this shared experience as large movie screens are to movie-going; a rock concert commands your attention, simply and in a sense elegantly, by subjecting you to so much sensory overload that you can't focus on anything other than the sound even if you want to. The visual pyrotechnics at arena shows, to extrapolate, are an attempt to augment the sonic bombardment, necessarily less intense in a less claustrophobic space, so that the overall experience will be as immersive. Drinking, especially heavily, also helps delineate the distinction between normal life (which, presumably, is confronted more soberly) and grand pagan ceremony.
But for me, that all makes concert-going even less appealing. I don't drink (at all, never mind heavily), and I have a correspondingly deep mistrust for mass rituals that rely on artificially-induced irrationality. Swaggering rock-star bravado, though arguably an indispensable component of rock and roll, is to me one of the form's least endearing traits, and floodlit stages and crowds of hysterical acolytes are not, in my opinion, conditions that tend to improve art. Some great art has been done for which this is the only appropriate context, but for every moment of truly transcendent populism, like approximately the entire population of Scotland singing "Loch Lomond" along with Runrig, or Peter Gabriel being borne, hand-to-hand, over the crowd during "Biko", as if it is Stephen Biko's coffin they are carrying, and the song is emanating, literally, from his spirit, there are a hundred examples of the abjectly mundane (Kiss being, to me, the quintessential one, but feel free to pick your own) masquerading, by virtue of a sort of colossal Marshall-stack shadow-puppetry, as something magnificent. Most of the art that affects me most strongly comes from an artist struggling against their environment, not basking in it. Concerts are capable of this, certainly; my memories of seeing Mark Eitzel, Tori Amos, Lisa Germano and Low play (not, mercifully, together) will be with me forever. But these are exceptions, memorable in no small part because they were anomalous. You may well find similar exceptions among your local populace, but in general, at local concerts you will find rock bands being rock bands, flush with probably-unwarranted self-confidence, which was thrilling when I was fifteen (and it was Blue Öyster Cult, flame-spouting Godzilla behind the drum kit and all), but which came to seem embarrassing to me long before I was old enough for my age to be an adequate explanation.
Happily, though, the very thing that steers me away from the local club scene also results in my enduring fascination with how the local music community is projected into the recorded dimension. The smaller the distribution of an album, the greater the likelihood that the band doesn't really know what they're doing, and while this is as good a recipe for catastrophe as any, great risk can also precede great triumphs. Most bands putting out hesitant, hopeful, self-released EPs aren't proficient enough at studiocraft to produce bland and undifferentiated mush, even if that was their inclination. More often than not they sound overwhelmed, terrified, inept, self-conscious and willfully oblivious, and I'm a lot more interested in hearing how people face those emotions (if we can call inept an emotion) than I am in hearing how they cope with raw adulation. (Perhaps if my day-to-day life involved more adulation, I'd feel differently.)
So I support Boston rock in my own obsessive way, by buying virtually any local release I don't have some strong reason to believe I'll hate. Random discoveries, which for a club-goer would come in the middle of six-band-no-cover Tuesday-night marathons, for me more often occur on compilations. Boston is blessed with two local labels that seem to me to have mastered at least parts of the art of compilation-making. Castle von Buhler, who were responsible for the benefit albums Soon (1994), Anon (1995) and Nigh (1997), produce lavish, breathtaking physical packages, notable both for artwork into which as much effort has been put as the music, and an astonishing stylistic coherency in which the art and the songs both participate. Curve of the Earth have more questionable packaging instincts (I expect there's a way in which the doe-eyed schoolgirl and neon strip-club signs on the cover of Girls! Girls! Girls! are supposed to be ironic, but I can't see what it is), but have assembled two (the other being 1994's Girl) of the very few compilation albums I find myself listening to repeatedly, without programming a few more track-skips, each time, until there's nothing left.
The collective rationale of Girls! Girls! Girls!, as with Girl before it, is that all the songs are written and sung by women. I'd like to think that by now this would be a somewhat silly idea, akin to an album of songs by people who are shorter than the median height, but as the presence, among twenty-four female-led bands, of twenty-one male drummers attests, there are still some gender stereotypes remaining to be beaten out of rock culture. The encouraging detail, I guess, is that if somebody had played me this album without mentioning the title or the backstory, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have occurred to me that there was a gimmick to it. I don't doubt that there are a couple dozen great Boston bands fronted by male singer-songwriters that I haven't heard of, either, but I don't miss them while I'm listening to this album.
Girls! Girls! Girls! doesn't appear to have been compiled with quite as strict a notion of stylistic consistency as the Castle von Buhler albums (which focus on Boston's gothic underground), but Boston does have discernible tendencies and traditions, which even a random two-dozen-band sample is bound to reveal. High volume and high speed are currently both at a premium, to the extent that much of this album would qualify, as long as you don't feel that female vocals preclude this, as hard rock, often bordering on heavy metal, as if the national legacy of L7 has ended up being a more profound influence than that of Hole or Veruca Salt. Keyboards have customarily been dismissed, around here, as inappropriately effete, and of these twenty-four bands, only three are not basically variations on the standard three- or four-person vocals/guitar/bass/drums configuration. The local heroines, I think, are Tracy Bonham and Jennifer Trynin, whose fiery "The One" (two years before it appeared on The Burdens of Being Upright, the album that earned Tracy a Grammy nomination) and disarming "Everything's Different Now", respectively, were the centerpieces, I thought, of Girl.
The compilation opens, without preamble, with the thudding "Candycane", by Verago-go, singers Isabel Riley and Jen Diamond's odd, frail harmonies drifting uneasily over Isabel's ragged guitar, Jen's growling, percussive bass and drummer John Lakian's square, relentless stomp. The jangly opening of Cherry 2000's "Rodeo Clown", which sounds a lot like REM's "Seven Chinese Brothers", turns out to be a feint, and the rest of the song, a furious roar over which Leah Blesoff weaves an ethereal cummings recitation, is dense and deliriously noisy. Ramona Silver's trebly "BJ's Got the Butterflies", something like a cheerful Liz Phair, is one of the few understated interludes, but it's followed by one of the most torrid, "Chelsea on Fire"'s raging "Wig", on which singer/guitarist Josie Packard manages a chilling heavy-metal wail halfway between Robert Plant and Geddy Lee, and a maniacal wah-wah guitar groove like Vernon Reid doing a Peter Frampton imitation.
I knew two of these bands already, the first of which is Mistle Thrush, who are defectors of a sort, since I first discovered them on the Castle von Buhler compilation Soon. Their textural keyboard atmospherics are a little out of character in this company, but the propulsive rhythm of their track, "Stupid Song", from their 1997 album Super Refraction, would have been even more incongruous on Nigh, so I guess this is the right place for them. Planet Queen, who follow with the fitful, jagged "Don't Say Anything", are one of the bands that remind me most of Tracy Bonham, though the loud parts of this song are slower and darker than most of Tracy's.
Track seven is where the compilation suddenly turned, for me, from a collection I listened to in browse mode, mentally taking notes about individual bands to investigate, to an album worth listening to in its own right. I don't like everything on it, but I don't like everything on a lot of albums I like, and the three-song run that begins here, were a single band responsible for it, would have been enough to get this album onto the short list, at least, for my 1997 top ten. It begins with January's galloping, succinct "Fuzzy Sweet", guitar buzzing thickly through relentless hooks as Christine Zufferey's breathless short-meter rhyme schemes skitter overhead. Bringing the disc to work resulted in my distractedly chanting "Fuzzy, fuzzy bitch / Psycho lunatic" to myself, not quite under my breath, for many minutes after hearing this song, which perhaps wasn't the best idea. The middle song of the trio is, I think, this album's most decisive answer to "The One", Sara Mann's brash, sturdy "Little Premonitions", with an even more outrageous, slinky wah-wah guitar riff than "Wig"'s, Sara's clipped delivery and an adept backing from Letters to Cleo's rhythm section combining to also remind me vividly, and pleasantly, of Jen Trynin. And the set concludes with the cathartic head-over-heels sprint "Whole in the World", by Half Cocked, who, when I realized that their name comes from the fact that two of the four of them are men, assumed the mantle, abandoned when Miles Dethmuffen changed their name to PermaFrost, of my vote for the Boston band with the worst name.
Malachite, the original standard-bearers of Boston all-girl heavy metal, in the old Black Sabbath sense of the term, whose "Mother" opened Girl, are no more (twice over, since Swank, their partial successor, have also disbanded), but Purrr (another name I dislike, but at least one whose spelling quirk does not, like Ghoti Hook, cause you to look for them in the wrong bin) seems more than happy to take over, updating the sound with a little stronger dose of Slayer's version of metal. Singer/guitarist Eve Evol, who is credited with "vocal shredding", has the hoarse yowl and the goofy pseudonym death metal mandates, and the band produces a credible sledgehammer assault that complements lines like "What were you thinking / When you turned the knife in? / When you crucified her / Innermost organs?" nicely. Emily Grogan's measured, staticky "No Hitch", by way of respite, edges back toward pensive pop, but even it has bursts of seething guitar racket. The spirit of the Pixies, which is almost always lurking somewhere nearby, whenever a Boston band combines punk guitar drive with singing that smacks of mental instability, takes on corporeal form, briefly, for the American Measles' deranged semi-love-song "Carlo", sung by Julie Chadwick in a preposterous throw-away cartoon sneer (as the song fades out you can hear her say "I think we can totally erase that one") that the band, in a fit of genius, retained.
Two of the album's least characteristic moments arrive together, as Betwixt, the one band represented on both Girls! Girls! Girls! and Castle von Buhler's Nigh, contribute an eerie, skeletal "Seahorse" (produced, surprisingly, by Boston legend David Minehan, formerly the leader of the Neighborhoods, one of the several great Boston bands whose attempt at a national breakthrough went absolutely nowhere), and the studio-duo Sweetie provide the album's one sampler-and-programming exercise, "It Happened Again (A Sequel)", a social-responsibility rejoinder to MC 900 ft. Jesus' classic arson chronicle "The City Sleeps". Metal thrash is back, though, for Shiva Speedway's off-kilter "Below the Belt", and Ashera's merciless, shouty "Puppy Dog Tails". The album's oddest interlude, by far, is Kate Frend's intricate multi-tracked bluegrass-gospel banjo-and-voice solo "Pigeons", which sounds like something unearthed from another era (and state).
The mood darkens, then, for the last quarter of the collection. Serum's becalmed "Sloe Candy" is somewhere between Throwing Muses, goth and slide-guitar blues; Big Monster Fish Hook's harrowing "Green Light" could be a Low song, albeit one performed, necessarily, at five times the speed Low would have used; Curious Ritual's ringing self-determination admonition, "Get With It, Girl", the other song I knew already, is musically buoyant, but lyrically disturbing; Goliath's muted "Baby" has some of the Feelies' melancholy, shuffling reserve; Gel's brittle, machine-groove "On the Brink" could be what you'd find if you scoured the processing blur off a Curve song. Lest you forget metal, there's one more brutal rant, 3 1/2 Girls' uncannily Celtic Frost-esque "Bitchslap" (except Thomas Gabriel Warrior would have thought of a more macabre title), and the collection ends, as something of a compromise, on the Foundation's meandering, rattling, trance-like "You're Beautiful", alternately metallic and oblique, with ex-Think Tree keyboardist Krishna Venkatesh providing a trumpet part that seems, at times, to have intriguingly little notion of what's going on in the rest of the song.
Verago-go: Flight 45
So taken was I with Girls! Girls! Girls! that I went back out, the next week, with the list of participants in hand, in search of more material by any of them. So far I've been able to track down records by about half of the bands. This is a risky tactic, as bands this early in their development often don't even have a style for the compilation track to be indicative of or not, but the gesture, my way of apologizing for not coming to these people's shows, was worthwhile to me, whether I turned out to like the individual albums or not. Verago-go are one of the bands that, if I hadn't set out to pursue them all, as policy, I probably would have left alone. Their songwriting involves a bit more anti-melodic evasion than I usually like, and the artlessness of their playing seems to me to have a deliberate awkwardness to it, as if they could write more appealing songs, but for some reason consider it beneath them. After a few exposures, though, I've started to discern the internal logic in the style, and become fond of a number of moments here, like the underwater bass pulse of "Venus", the cymbal splashes in the terse "Stars of the Road", the lurching accelerations and decelerations of "Speedracer", the key-jumping hooks in "All My Pretty Ones", the Geraldine Fibbers-ish "Ophelia", the Fugazi-like edginess of "Blue Night", the sulky bass line of "Little Girl", the acoustic lament "Liquid Love" and the frenetic clatter of the abstract nine-minute instrumental finale. The record is even less approachable than their compilation track (which does not appear here), and if I'm not in the right tolerant mood when I put it on I have to turn it off again almost immediately, but albums with epic drum solos on them have become scarce enough that I take what I can get.
Chelsea on Fire: Once Is Never
I really hoped that Once Is Never was going to be forty-three minutes of the same preternatural howl Josey Packard displays on "Wig", but it's quite possible that that would have been as wearying to listen to as it would have been to record. Unfortunately, though, the standard set by "Wig" makes me impatient with anything else on the album that doesn't at least aspire to its level of vehemence. This is unjust and unrealistic, but about half the album succeeds anyway. "Twist" is slower, but no less forceful; the vocal parts in "Extra Heavy Sin" are subdued and distracted, but the sputtering, spasmodic guitar is an arresting contrast; "Superman" sounds like Janis Joplin singing with Solitude Aeturnus; the stentorian punk blast "You're Mine" is menacing and sharp; "7:11" (not its length) is like Veruca Salt (circa American Thighs) trying to figure out how a female Rage Against the Machine would work; "Breech"'s music crashes and surges intently, but Josey's erratic narrative refuses to cooperate. And the airy, elegant acoustic finale, "Carousel", though nothing I'd have expected to find here, could be the seed of a completely different future for the band, altogether.
The find of this batch, for me, was definitely January. Christine Zufferey sings with a throaty rock confidence that makes me wonder, wistfully, what happened to the solo album ex-Tribe singer Janet LaValley was supposedly working on, and the band plays like Rush with a shorter attention span and a keyboard allergy. This self-released half-hour 1996 EP, the band's first, has a couple questionable digressions, notably the deadpan monster-rock cover of the Chocolate Factory work-song "Oompa-Loompa Doompadee-Doo", but it's also got the sawing 3/4 churn of "Take Me There" (like a missing chapter from Rush's "Cygnus X-1"), at least the fourth completely unrelated song called "Joyride" I can think of (after Roxette, Tribe and Havana 3am), one song ("See With") that starts out like Throwing Muses but then breaks into the kind of bellowing, addictive payoff that I invariably find myself wishing, vainly, that Kristin Hersh's songs would, and the slashing punk anthems "Standstill" and "Anywhere", which each have at least twice as many chords as they really need, with the result that they sound a little like Social Distortion run through a pitch-shifter operated by a mischievous hand.
January: Keep Me From Sleeping
By the second EP, a year later, from which their compilation track, "Fuzzy Sweet", comes, the balance of power in the band seems to have shifted: the music, centered now around buzzing guitar riffs that remind me much more of Sugar than Rush, has been substantially streamlined, while Christine's singing, conversely, has taken to almost Kate Bush-like falsetto flourishes. There are two more strident, simmering waltzes ("Fleece" and "Little Fish"), dizzying vocal octave-shifts on the uneasy "Magnificent", and calculated sliding sighs on the somber "Naphtalene", but the song that single-handedly justifies the disc, for me, is the last one, "Dinosaurs", a perfect example (like Tracy Bonham's "The One", actually) of how a single good guitar hook can redeem any amount of otherwise pointless musical filler. The ticking, jazzy verses of this song serve absolutely no purpose, that I can tell, other than to build anticipation for the explosive choruses. Probably there's a way to construct this song so that the verses would be more interesting, without losing the tension between the verses and the chorus, but I really don't care. The song drifts, and I hang, poised, waiting for the chorus' monolithic riff to slam down, as long as it takes. The bass starts pulsing, foreshadowing, and I start rehearsing the critical couplet, "You've got the spikes / I've got the mighty roar", as if dinosaurs are some sort of collaborative hallucination (which in a sense I suppose they are; the hundreds of plastic ones lining my bookshelves are certainly not there because I care about the intricacies of paleontology). And then it's time, and I'm flailing on the hook, stuck as firmly to this one as to "Smoke on the Water", "Jailbreak" or "Immigrant Song".
Sara Mann: Sara Mann
The rest of Sara Mann's five song EP, from which "Little Premonitions" comes, turns out to bear very little resemblance to it. "Gameboy" shares "Little Premonitions"' Tracy Bonham-ish urgency, but where "Little Premonitions" is all rock strut, hung on Michael Eisenstein blaring guitar, the remaining three songs are far quieter, based on Mann's gentle piano-playing and soft, pretty singing, more akin to Joni Mitchell or Paula Cole, depending on the era, than Bonham or Trynin. It's clear which of the two styles has more commercial potential (although then again, after Paula's success, perhaps it isn't), but I'm hoping Sara has a day-job she likes, which will shield her from temptation.
Purrr: Pussy Power
Purrr, on their six song EP, blow through nineteen minutes of unadulterated metal so firmly in keeping with their compilation track, "Butcher's Wife", that I have to concentrate to remember which of the six it is. Like Malachite before them, Purrr's notion of metal also owes a debt to Boston powerhouse The Bags, who sped metal up and gave it a bit of bouncy punk-pop levity; as they shout, with barely concealed glee, "I've got pussy power" (lyrical subtlety is not their forte), I can easily imagine their audience adapting the clenched fist salute that traditionally accompanied the Bags' anthem "Pioneer". Elsewhere, though, as on the "War Ensemble"-like "Rosemary's Baby", they seem intent on demonstrating that the outcome of a boys-vs-girls war, even with Slayer on the boys' side, is far from a foregone conclusion.
The American Measles: Shover the Cupcake
The American Measles are the second resounding success from this experiment, for me. I admired "Carlo", their Girls! Girls! Girls! contribution, for its crazed energy, and I was glad at least one band seemed to explicitly acknowledge Kim Deal's pivotal place in the history of women in Boston rock (Kim's listing herself, on the first two Pixies records, as "Mrs. John Murphy" now seems like a bit of prescient sarcasm), but I wouldn't have staked much on the chance that that one song's novelty appeal would wear well over the length of a full album. As it turns out, it doesn't have to, because the band has a few more influences in reserve. Their songwriting, though jokey enough at times to suggest the Ramones, takes itself seriously enough at others to remind me of the Slingbacks. Julie Chadwick's manic, guileless delivery means that comparisons to the Muffs are probably inevitable, but the impish spirit of the songs also invokes Too Much Joy. The caterwauling "Chinese Girls" has traces of Wire, "Stoic" sounds like some of the early Go-Go's demos (but better played), "Rockets" has hints of Penetration and "Chicks on Crack" can probably trace its roots back to the Au Pairs. "The Z" is out-of-control punk as venomously derisive as the Sex Pistol's "Pretty Vacant", and the choppy "Mirth the Baddie" and the circling, heartfelt "No It's Not" are surprisingly sturdy rock songs. The centerpiece, though, for me, is what seems to me like the album's best synthesis of punk attitude, pop craftsmanship and rock surge, the infectious, exasperated "God Took My Bike". It could be a disposable one-joke concept, but Chadwick seems so sincerely convinced, when she howls "That fucker took my bike", that an all-knowing deity has perpetrated this trivial affront, that in a roundabout way it's one of the most pious lines I've ever heard in a rock song.
Sweetie: Dried Fly's Blood
I had no idea, at all, what to expect from Sweetie's album, since their track on the compilation was, for musical purposes, essentially a cover. After listening to it, I'm still not sure I know what to expect from it. Parts of it sound like they would like to be Nine Inch Nails, and other parts sound like Think Tree is more what they have in mind, but Sweetie haven't Trent Reznor's destructive exuberance, and they don't leave me feeling like I'm in the grip of an evil genius, the way Think Tree did, and my tolerance for sampler collages stranded somewhere between the two isn't high enough for this to hold my interest.
Ashera: Essence of Life
From "Puppy Dog Tails", which isn't on this album, I expected Ashera to be straightforward metal, much like Purrr. This is partly true, as "Essence of Life", "Syphilis" and "Moments of Weakness" all boil with metal rage. "Buckout" is geometric and introverted, a little like Lida Husik, which is intriguing, but then "Under My Skin", "Pomegranate", "Bang", "Buy Your Friends" and "Driver" are all strangled blues jams, in the same general mold as the John Spencer Blues Explosion, which happens to be one of the few styles of music I absolutely cannot abide. But then, just when I'm about to junk the album, it ends with the jangly pop gem "Soft Society" and the languid mid-tempo ballad "First Hit", which sound like the work of another band entirely. So now I'm hoping they'll make an album.
Serum: Dirty Girl Scout
The focus of the Castle von Buhler compilations, over the course of the three of them, has drifted steadily away from the end of goth that produced atmospheric pop, towards the genre's minimal, experimental extreme. This shift has stranded a few bands that now no longer qualify as goth, most obviously Mistle Thrush and Curious Ritual (sirensong escaped only by disbanding), into whose company Serum arrives as welcome (I think) reinforcements. "Church of Elvis" is stern and moody, the echoey, throbbing "Angeldust" is haunting and distressed, "Suckerpunch" is like "All Along the Watchtower" performed by wraiths, "Fireball" is choppy and spinning, "Deja-Vu" keening and swirly, and "Sloe Candy", their Girls! Girls! Girls! selection, heard in the context of the rest of the album, has more of the ghostly pallor of Big Star's "Holocaust" than I noticed on the compilation. The audience for this album is probably about the same as the audience for Mistle Thrush and Curious Ritual, but since those two bands have only three albums and two EPs between them, one more hardly seems excessive.
Big Monster Fish Hook: Collecting Bugs and Pieces
Out of thirteen albums, only two of them really do nothing for me. This is a really good ratio. Big Monster Fish Hook's, however, is the other one. Any isolated minute of their quiet, acoustic music, finger-picked guitars and assorted toy instruments, seems very pleasant, but I too quickly become impatient, and expect the songs to evolve, which they don't. If the repetition doesn't bother you, I suspect this is a very soothing record. If a soothing record irritates you, though, it's pretty hard to salvage.
Gel is the third band of the three, from this batch, that I will now pursue, dedicatedly, for the rest of their lives. Their compilation track is also the one that seems the most perplexing to me, now that I've heard what I assume were their other choices. Far from the stiff, cheesy drum-machine loop that propels "On the Brink", the other four songs on this EP are charged and anthemic, descendants, to me, of one of my favorite odd branches of Boston history, the great Rubber Rodeo. There isn't much that's countryish about Gel's sound, which on paper is closer to the Mistle Thrush/Curious Ritual/Serum alliance, especially instrumentally, but the soaring chorus harmonies on "Only One" remind me of Trish Milliken's impassioned "Heartbreak Highway", and the twists at the ends of the choruses of "Phasehead" remind me of Rubber Rodeo's "Souvenir". Elsewhere, the slow bass flow of "Home" and the twinkling acoustic guitar lattices of "Imbolc" both clash, attractively, with the songs' frantic vocals. This isn't enough evidence for me to tell what sort of band Gel will really become, but half of the fun is discovering them early enough to wonder.
3 1/2 Girls: Rule
My survey concludes, appropriately enough, with the last of Curve of the Earth's own bands (Verago-go and Chelsea on Fire were the other two), the three-woman/one-man metal quartet 3 1/2 Girls, whose name is only marginally less offensive to me than Half Cocked's. "Bitchslap", their song from Girls! Girls! Girls!, is absent from this short, Minehan-produced, five-song EP, and in fact nothing here quite reproduces its death-metal grind. "Straight-Edge Boy" is a little like a double-speed "War Pigs", "Bacteria" is more like a cross between Anthrax and the Dead Kennedys, "Chris B. (Wake Up, It's Time to Die)" is bellowed, thumping and White Zombie-ish, "Forget It" is dark and turbulent, and the thrashing "Denial" offers the following fairy-tale revision: "You fuck with / The Frog Prince, / You'll find out / What pain is". "In denial!", singer Sunshine [sic] Volz sings, over and over again as the song fades out, and I take this to be an indictment of anybody who ever hid from their responsibility for their own destiny behind the notion that kissing a frog, if you can just find the right one, is a substitute for self-awareness and moral resolution. And if our choice for role models comes down to pale princesses holding their breath for the lottery results, and berserkers who've traded swords for guitars and daises for nightclub stages, I guess I harbor more fondness for rock and roll bravado than I thought.