All LeatherWhen I Grow Up, I Wanna Fuck Like a Girl(Dim Mak)*6.5*Goes well with: Neophyte, Atari Teenage Riot
Justin Pearson is best known for screaming incomprehensibly and churning out gnarled bass riffs for sci-fi grindcore bands like The Locust and Holy Molar. But All Leather—a collaboration between Pearson, Nathan Joyner of Some Girls and Jung Sing of Maniqui Lazer—represents a change of pace for San Diego’s most provocative scenester.
Trading blast-beats for the bone-rattling thump of a programmed kick drum, All Leather offers rather danceable fare on their debut album. With its propulsive bass and straightforward disco beat, “Dear Mother Nature, Drop Dead” is downright club-worthy. But if that sounds disappointing to hardcore Locust fans, rest assured that All Leather isn’t holding back. The squealing electronics of the title track are wonderfully harsh, and “I Do It With My Prick Out” grinds along like a chainsaw chopping into sheet metal, even if the song titles on this 23-minute album aren’t nearly as clever as, say, the Locust classic “Get Off the Cross, the Wood is Needed.”
It’s about time that Pearson added techno to his arsenal of noise terror. Other bands gave his fans an excuse to flail around and join the pit, but When I Grow Up finally gives them something to dance to.
QuasiAmerican Gong(Kill Rock Stars)*8.2*Goes well with: Pavement, The Beatles, Heatmiser
It’s baffling why Sam Coomes and Co. chose to open their new record with the appropriately titled “Repulsion.” Not only is a catchy hook neglected by not building anything substantial around it, but the song also features asinine lyrics like “I didn’t mean to make you snore / I went out and I got a whore / I had to run when I could not cum / I bang on the drum like a dum dum dum.” The track is arguably a b-side, and having it kick off the album shows a considerable lack of judgment. It’s especially frustrating, given that if you removed it—along with the equally underwhelming “Death is Not the End”—what’s left is Quasi’s best album in years, if not ever.
What separates American Gong from previous high-water marks—1998’s Featuring “Birds” and 2003’s Hot Shit—is that instead of sounding like a bunch of good songs thrown together randomly, it’s a lean, gorgeous bit of annihilation pop that frequently changes gears without losing coherence. Bassist and longtime touring member Joanna Bolme finally gets a chance here to record with the band, and her harmonies with drummer / fellow Jick Janet Weiss are used effectively. After 17 years, I guess they can do what they want, but this really good record could have been truly great with a little editing.
The SplintersKick(Double Negative)*7.2*Goes well with: Sleater-Kinney, Le Tigre, The Raincoats
It’s an odd twist of pop history that it took an allegedly testosterone-heavy movement like punk—and its championing of a return to the simple chords and pure energy of early-’60s rock ’n’ roll—to usher in a resurgence of so-called girl groups. The Runaways, The Bangles and The Go-Go’s certainly benefited from the sudden hipness of underground heroes like The Shangri-Las and The Raincoats. Jump two decades ahead, and today’s post-riot grrrly bands also have a rich, recent lineage of kin to thank: Liz Phair, Sleater-Kinney, Le Tigre and even Meg White.
Berkeley’s The Splinters aren’t reinventing the femme-fronted universe, just joyfully sprinting down a well-worn road with their nascent approach to rowdy, punk-inspired songwriting. Theirs are mostly simple, often teenybopper-ish yelping parties, mixed with a few stark speed bumps to stave off the sugary O.D. But once you get past the K Records innocence and the spry Bangles harmonizing, what’s most promising about Kick is the smartly seasoned production. Tracks like “Dark Shades” and “Electricity” streak Blondie’s ice-cool, double-tracked vocals with swirling hints of psychedelic reverb in just the right places.
Started as a Misfits-covers novelty act, this disarmingly talented lineup has turned an original songwriting session they considered a lark into a solid debut effort, just 18 months later. With a couple major tours under their bullet belts, there’s no telling how much they’ll grow from here.
—Will K. Shilling
The Splinters play Sunday, March 28, at Bar Pink.