When artists pad their résumés with awards such as the Klammies (Kansas City's version of the RFT's own Slammies), you reasonably figure they're looking for attention in all the wrong places. Kristie Stremel's last band, Exit 159, made enough noise around Kansas City to build on the cult following accumulated by Frogpond, an alt-chick band whose take on indie rock -- à la Imperial Teen or the Breeders -- was as tuneful as it was short-lived. Stremel's songwriting and singing -- less hieratic than Patti Smith's but sometimes as catchy as Pat Benatar's -- was starting to outmaneuver the post-grunge confines of Frogpond.
Match Stremel with Lou Whitney, the Gandalf the Grey of roots music; cut her crackerjack band loose in the Studio in Springfield, Mo.; turn up the amps and roll the tape -- what you get is All I Really Want. Well-stomped tremolo and distortion pedals, lightly worn harmonies from longtime collaborator Chris Meck, jangly hooks and a kind of retro '70s cool (anthemic opener "Shaky Hands" recalls nothing so much as Joe Walsh's "In the City") make for solid, girl-meets-girl rock & roll, though Stremel occasionally gives in to a bit of country-folk melody-making. The closer, "Bright Red Shirt," with its gorgeous Hammond lines and lesbian dive-bar lyricism, begins, "The thing about the rent is, I spent it on cigarettes and cheap wine," though the singer saved enough nickels for jukebox full of blue-eyed soul and stoner guitar rock. Fans of smart guitar rock would be remiss in not attending Stremel's first St. Louis gig in years.