Mecca Normal – “Brave New Waves Session” (2019)

meccanormalbraveI recently picked up a copy of Mecca Normal’s Calico Kills The Cat and was impressed, so when I saw that Artoffact was putting out a long-lost live session from 1996 I knew I’d need to check it out.

Right from the first needle drop Jean Smith is simmering with anger and grit, challenging the audience as if to say, “I’m not here to sing sweetly for you.  You will LISTEN to what I have to say!”  Musically things are very straight-forward, setting the pace and providing the platform for Smith’s lyrics, the drumming a pulse and the guitar capturing the changing mood and flow.  The vocal don’t so much follow the beat or any standard cadence, instead flowing organically in an almost stream-of-consciousness way.  It’s a risky approach and one that can come across as sloppy or lazy if you’re not careful, but Smith pulls it off perfectly with complete confidence.

The sound quality is tremendous, as you’d expect for something recorded by CBC for broadcast.  You can stream it and/or buy a vinyl copy on Bandcamp HERE, so if you’re Jonesing for something you haven’t heard before with an honest riot grrrl vibe, go check it out.

Sleater-Kinney – “Live In Paris” (2017)

While I’ve lived in the greater Seattle area since the mid-1980s, I feel I can safely claim near complete ignorance to the Sleater-Kinney catalog.  I say this with neither pride nor embarrassment; it’s simply a fact.  I feel like I’ve been aware of them for a million years, but just never seemed to cross paths with their music despite being a big fan of Portlandia, which stars Sleater-Kinney guitarist Carrie Brownstein and had one of the greatest show intros of all time for its first season:

Despite my Sleater-Kinney ignorance (♠) I was excited to hear that Sub Pop was releasing this live album.  As my 2016 year-end best of lists probably show, I’ve been getting more and more into female bands in recent years, so the prospect of some live riot grrrl style punk from Sleater-Kinney felt like something I had to pick up.

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Live In Paris is put together like a bootleg, a plain white cardboard jacket with black-and-white photocopier-quality front and back covers glued on.  While the sound quality is excellent, it took me a couple of songs to get into the groove, but “What’s Mine Is Yours” struck a chord with me, and the next track “A New Wave” took me to the promised land.  Sleater-Kinney are fairly stripped down, at times a bit discordant but at others all pure pop-punky goodness, and I’m down with their sound.

I probably should write more about Live In Paris, but it’s been a long week, and I just want to sink into the couch and let the tunes wash over me.  So I’ll leave it at this – it’s some great stuff, and definitely worth your musical attention.

(♠)  Though, to be fair I have driven by the exit for Sleater Kinney Road on I-5, from which the band takes it’s name, many a time.

Spitboy – “True Self Revealed”

I have to confess that I didn’t know that Spitboy was an all-female band when I bought True Self Revealed.  It looked cool, the price was right, so I just bought it.  It wasn’t until I looked through the nice enclosed booklet that I figured it out, and a quick Google search confirmed that the 1990s band out of San Francisco was in fact comprised entirely of women.  I suppose with their style and very female message driven lyrics that they would fall into the Riot Grrrl category… though I’m not sure if the women associated with Riot Grrrl hate that label as much as most of the grunge rockers hate the word “grunge.”  Somehow I doubt it, since Riot Grrrl was a movement, and music was just one piece of the female empowering message.  The only things grunge had associated with it other than drop D tuning and a geographical ground zero of the Pacific Northwest was flannel and heroin.

True Self Revealed was Spitboy’s first full length album, released in 1993 by Ebullition Records.  The emphasis on the message of their music is evident by the booklet included with the record, which includes the lyrics to all the songs.  “Um, so what,” you’re thinking.  “Lots of bands do that.”  True.  But Spitboy give them to you in five different languages to maximize their reach.  I can’t think of another record I’ve ever seen that uses more than two.

As young children,
We suffer through an inquisition
At the hands of adults
And endure the bitter sufferings of our elders,
Our innocence is violated
As we are stripped of all self-control,
Force fed rules, Force fed morals
Force fed lessons, Force fed lies.
— “Moral Casualty”

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This isn’t “feel good” music; this is catharsis.  This is expressing the pain and frustration and rage that is pent up inside you, when you think maybe you’re the only one in the world who feels this way, and you don’t know how to express it, and then it bursts out of you.  It’s not meant to be pretty; it’s not meant to be technically proficient; it’s certainly not meant to be mainstream.  It’s about the message, the thoughts, and emotions.  It’s about realizing you’re not alone and that you can live the kind of life you want, regardless of what you may have been through.  You can make it, and do it your way.  I’m not a woman, nor have I played one on TV.  But the underlying message here, while directed at women, is universal.  It’s punk and metal.  It’s universal.

The music is raw, and the angst is real.  I could tell you I like the sound of this song better than that one, and all that other kind of stuff, but that’s not the point of True Self Revealed. The point is that it’s real.  How the songs sound compared to one another is pretty much irrelevant.