The Girls came out of the Seattle punk scene--frontman Shannon Brown and drummer Mario Martusciello played in the Cuckoos back in the day--but they've never seemed to fit safely within it. There's a preening new wave/glammy current animating the band, reinforced by their dress (they've been known to play wearing only slim skivvies live), Brown's hiccupped, hysterical vocals, and the band's pop hooks. Their best songs have all the catchiness of classic Cars tracks mixed with the blown-out punk pomp of the New York Dolls and the Voidoids. With the addition of keyboard player Eric Nordlund, the Girls (which also includes guitarist Zache Davis and bassist Nick "the naked guy" Markel) have moved even deeper into feverish new-wave territory that teeters between pop and punk, placing the band in good company on the Dirtnap Records catalog. And with the release of the Girls' first proper full-length (the follow-up to their Return to Zero EP), self-titled and peppered with photos of the band primping, posing, and performing, they seem to be proudly declaring that over-the-top is the new subtle--a great motto so long as it's done right, with a big dose of playfulness and unselfconscious fun. Luckily, there are plenty of places on this new record where that important combination is exactly what's taking place.
Produced by Martin Feveyear, The Girls takes much of the band's older material and gives it a new coat of audio gloss. The songs are more punched out with extra-crunchy guitar riffs and detailed with hearty backing choruses that reverberate like football chants while handclaps and keyboard effects hit in lightning strikes throughout the album. The opener "Return to Zero" is a great staple from the band's set, but "Decoy" really high-kicks things into gear, with Brown both talking up and trashing the faux fabulous life. "Everybody's smashing," he taunts, before counting off the latest in a long line of haunted hollow men ("You've got your face in the latest victim's race") and hitting back with, "I think I'm gonna smash it. I think I'm always crashing into it." The chorus shouted by Brown's bandmates tempers the dramatic delivery, giving the song a dizzying effect: You seem to have been propped in the center of a propulsive atmosphere, one the band wants to tear to shreds. But nothing's too serious for the Girls, with even the most (semi)tragic of topics tickled by Brown's convulsive delivery and the band's delirious pop overtones. My one complaint is that some of the songs seem too slow for all the pent-up energy the band has, but all in all, it's a record to be proud of, one that shows the band moving into a new place in the new-wave punk scene. In celebration of The Girls, the band is having a CD release show on Friday, April 30, at Chop Suey with the Lights and the Dalmatians.
On the old-Seattle tip, for a quirky little mashup of all your grunge favorites/most hated hits sampled in one song, check out DJs on Strike!'s "Oh, Nevermind (Pirate Grunge 2006)" at djsonstrike.com--Alice in Chains and Mudhoney will never get so cozy again. And in the "deep groan" category, Billboard.com reports that the WB is developing an original movie about Kurt Cobain based on Charles Cross' Heavier Than Heaven. If there's such a thing as being able to roll over in your grave, it's now time for the Nirvana frontman's umpteenth spin.