Music » Critics' Picks

Bratmobile, the Donnas and the Mooney Suzuki

Wednesday, March 21; Galaxy.


Although the mainstream media often presented the early-'90s grrrl-rock phenomenon as a homogeneous mass, the uprising was divided at street level into two distinct and not always friendly camps. Bands such as Bikini Kill and Huggy Bear were the more political faction: Their lyrics dealt explicitly with gender politics, and they consciously kept themselves outside the corporate music industry. The other wing of the subculture was more interested in rock with a capital R, preferring to let their loud female guitars speak for themselves. Babes in Toyland and L7 were followed a half-step later by Hole; these bands were not above signing major-label contracts and playing the stadium game.The boundaries were fairly loose at first, but by the time Hole's Courtney Love slugged Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna backstage at Lollapalooza, the two camps had very little to talk about. None of this seems to matter anymore, apparently, because here come two great bands with a foot in each style.

Bratmobile was one of the best of the "political" bands the first time around; the 1993 album Pottymouth demands repeated listening for days at a time, as intelligent young people across America discovered at the time -- and the group's EPs were arguably better. The Bratmobile style was superminimal and mock-innocent, with single-note guitar lines and sweetly screamed vocals, and the songs were preposterously catchy. After a heartbreaking mid-'90s fizzle-out, Bratmobile returned last year with Ladies, Women and Girls, an album that adds some raunchy garage-rock chordage to the group's earlier rudimentary style. Those familiar with Bratmobile are no doubt breathlessly awaiting this show -- and everyone else should be.

The Donnas are younger, as the title of their latest album, The Donnas Turn 21, would indicate -- but their musical roots lie further back, in the '70s (Runaways, Ramones, Kiss) and '80s (Poison, Mötley Crüe). Their mixture of smoking-area bad-girl attitude and punky pop-metal is always a helluva lotta fun, and the new record is a particularly catchy serving of postjuvenile delinquency. The single "40 Boys in 40 Nights" is the way pop-metal should have sounded in the first place.Finally, the Mooney Suzuki (pictured) break with the evening's theme by being male, but don't let that put you off: Their soul-soaked '60s rock is steadily driving the whole world apeshit.

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