Music » Critics' Picks

Bratmobile with the Washdown

Friday, July 12; Creepy Crawl


"Yes, yes," you're saying. "Bratmobile was that one band from the early '90s that helped start the whole riot-grrl thing. If I recall correctly, they influenced a generation of indie-rockers and punk kids and inspired tons of great bands. A couple of crappy ones, too. Are those guys still around?

"The answer, of course, is a resounding yes -- and possibly a kick in the shins. The band members reunited a couple of years ago and, with the release of Girls Get Busy (Lookout), are now two albums into the second phase of their career. Fortunately for fans, all the signifiers of the Bratmobile sound are still very much in evidence: Erin Smith's simple but cool two-finger surfy punk-guitar riffs, Molly Neuman's no-nonsense drumming and Allison Wolfe's out-of-breath cheerleader vocals. Just as fortunately for potential new fans, the band's never sounded fuller or more accessible. Bass and keyboards pop up throughout the album, giving it a cool new-wave sheen, and the three core members seem to be rocking harder than ever before, probably in part because of last year's tour with the unapologetically hard-rocking Donnas.

Lyrically, Bratmobile is as angry and self-righteous as ever, tackling hypocrisy, gender inequality and politics both universal and personal. A trickier task -- and one they manage to pull off -- is addressing these issues without whining or preaching. Although the band will probably never again wield the influence it once did, it'll also never let down the faithful. Those who think Bratmobile re-formed to cash in needn't worry. As Wolfe sings in "I'm in the Band," "I'll be punk for the rest of my life!" Consider it a threat and a promise.

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