Wednesday, March 31, 2010

First Ladies Of Rock

Much like everything else in the Juanoverse, we wouldn’t want to give you anything without the proper amount of procrastination attached. Letting my Women’s History Month piece simmer on the backburner ‘til the final moments of the final day might be overkill, you say? TouchĂ©. But I still wanted to give you a glimpse of some of the coolest ladies in the music biz, so cool your jets. And I’m not talking about a history lesson, trotting out the foremothers of rock. No Janis, no Aretha, no Patti. Of COURSE they were amazing. And granted, the Runaways movie may have been an inspiration for this list - but I wanted a list of women inspiring new generations to pick up a guitar and rock. And if some of these ladies rocked any harder, they might actually break through the fabric of this universe and into a new reality. So let’s jump in, kids…

1. The Donnas – Adopting the Donna moniker much like Joey and co. took on the Ramones name, these ladies have been known to rock a party and then steal all your beer. Luckily, you don’t mind being robbed and roofied by this crew – they leave you sonically satisfied like no others. Having cut their teeth learning Ace Frehley’s guitar licks and earning an advanced degree in punk and metal debauchery, The Donnas could teach you how to hotwire a car AND escape from the police. Valuable life lessons, people!
Recommended Listening: Spend The Night

2. Dresden Dolls/Amanda Palmer – A friend once described the Dresden Dolls’ live set by simply saying “They’re telepathic. Seriously.” When I finally got around to seeing the duo, I had to marvel at finding out he was right. Amanda and Brian (Viglione) could just give each other a sideways glance, no words, and effortlessly shift from song to song. Their sound is like the soundtrack to a fractured fairy tale transcribed by someone in an opium den – but it works. They call it “Brechtian Punk Cabaret”, and the fact that their painted faces are a cross between a crazed mime and a fractured porcelain doll – well, it just completes the package. These are two of the most enthralling live performers I have ever seen - and Palmer’s solo work is equally (wonderfully) deranged.
Recommended Listening: The Dresden Dolls and Ms. Palmer’s solo effort (produced by Ben Folds) Who Killed Amanda Palmer

3. The Stone Coyotes – For Barbara Keith (vocals/guitar), her band is her family – literally. With her husband (Doug Tibbles on drums) and her stepson (John Tibbles on bass) rounding out the trio, this is one hell of an impressive lineage. Keith crafted the oft-covered folk classic “The Bramble and the Rose” in her early career, and now we’re witnessing the creation of new rock treasures with every Coyotes album (nine to date, and counting). Those of us from Western Mass should consider ourselves lucky to have such phenomenal talent calling Greenfield their home.
Recommended Listening: Born To Howl

4. Lady Sovereign – Pint-sized poet. Midget MC. Shorty songstress. These are all terms I’d use if I wanted to get punched in the crotch by this ultra-feisty English rapper. She’s got all the attitude of Eminem and Dre, and equal amounts of talent under that hoody.
Recommended Listening: Public Warning

5. Distillers/Spinnerette (Brody Dalle) – So many snarling punk testaments to badassery were written in such a short career as The Distillers that it’s hard to believe they only released three albums. When they disappeared after dropping their major label debut (2003’s Coral Fang), that was it. But never fear, kids – Spinnerette rose from the ashes of The Distillers in 2007 (featuring Dalle and Distillers guitarist Tony Bradley (aka Tony Bevilacqua)), and is going strong. The growling and grunting has been tempered with a more accessible sound, but the ‘tude remains strong…
Recommended listening: The Distillers’ Sing Sing Death House and Spinnerette’s self-titled debut.

6. Aimee Allen – I was obsessed with this particular chanteuse for a while after she scored a title song for a short-lived TV series called Birds of Prey. But her album got squelched by the record company before she got any real accolades. Luckily, the tracks leaked into the interwebs…which is when most of us REALLY fell in love with her. At a time when Evanescence was using industrial techno as a backdrop for depressing faux goth, Aimee was using it to accentuate her sultry powerhouse vocals. The star potential was obvious – music with utterly danceable hooks, screaming guitar and a decidedly “Explicit Lyrics” stamp of approval. Later releases featured revamped versions of some of the songs, but that raw power was never recaptured.
Recommended Listening: I’d Start A Revolution (If I Could Get Up In The Morning) is the original, unreleased disc. You can still find it floating around on the web if you know your way around a search engine – it’s worth the effort…

7. Bif Naked - This Canadian singer has most of what I’m looking for in a bad girl: Lots of ink, an incredible set of pipes and a fine balance of FU attitude and wide-eyed wonder. And of course, having a gig at Buffy’s legendary faux night club (The Bronze) helped her gain a special place in my heart. A most impressive recent fact about Bif: she kicked the crap out of cancer and came back with a new album called The Promise. The title refers to the pledge she made to her fans while in the middle of her chemo – that she would be back to kick more ass than ever. It just doesn’t get much more punk rock than that…
Recommended Listening: I, Bificus

8. The Noisettes (Shingai Shoniwa)
Their first disc was a retro garage rock masterpiece, with Ms. Shoniwa’s electric vocals crackling through the guitar crunch. So, when the second disc largely departed into a more soulful, hand-clapping kind of danceability, it took some getting used to. But, damn if that wasn’t a great sound too!
Recommended Listening: What’s The Time Mr. Wolf?

9. HorrorPops (Patricia Day) – Patricia Day is the voice behind this punky little slice of psychobilly. Their story began when Day’s former group (Peanut Pump Gun) was opening for the Nekromantix, and she struck up a conversation with Kim Nekroman (of the aforementioned band) about how limiting their genres could be. They both felt a need to explore more of their musical longings, and that spark was what would later fuel the creation of the HorrorPops. Add a few more band members, a couple of go-go dancers and an astoundingly fun mixture of punk-tinged horror stories and pop accessibility and I think you’ve got the basic recipe down…
Recommended Listening: Bring It On

10. Hole – For those of you thinking that Courtney Love is a has-been who is probably more in need of rehab than a comeback – well, I’m not necessarily arguing that point. But it’s hard to deny that Hole made some pretty tasty pop-punk classics. And judging by the excellent reviews of their live set at SXSW this year, it may be time to cut Courtney some slack…until the next time she passes out and falls off stage.
Recommended Listening: Live Through This

Yes, there are about a thousand other bands I could have showcased - but there simply isn't enough room for all the tremendous talent out there. So, who would you have picked? Comment away, folks!...


Madame Enfer said...

Great call with Amanda Palmer. Saw her live earlier this month and she is totally beyond brilliant. I would also place PJ Harvey, Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, and Shirley Manson of Garbage (I had the good fortune to see Garbage last February too).

And in guitarists, DEFINITELY Poison Ivy of the Cramps. Inspirational woman.

None said...

Bif Naked, really?

How can you not have Shirley Manson there, a figure that in many ways defined post-Nirvana 90s?