What will ultimately save Bratmobile from the riot girl ghetto of early '90s commercial nostalgia can be summed up in one word: balls. While their original peers were shrill and dogmatic, Bratmobile was too immediate in learning not to give a fuck. The three-woman band--formed in Eugene, Oregon, lead by singer Allison Wolfe, and backed by one-string guitarist Erin Smith and drummer Molly Neuman--took the clumsy-rock warrior act the Slits pioneered 20 years earlier and grafted onto it the bravado of 1980s rock. They pulled it off so well that, at the height of the riot girls' notoriety, a talk show host proposed a faceoff with David Lee Roth. Listen to Wolfe out-Danzig Glen on their 1992 cover of the Misfits' "Where Eagles Dare," and it's hard to imagine why that showdown never happened.
Reunited in 1999, Bratmobile is slugging it out again in a post-girl power, post-Spice Girls, post-Lillith Fair, post-Donnas world. After almost a decade, the facade of their act remains the same. Wolfe's still randy, crass, and scantily clad; Smith and Neuman still boast their lack of musicianship. Yet, that said, the songs on the forthcoming Ladies, Women, and Girls could have never fit in with their repertoire in 1992. An older, wiser Bratmobile has emerged, and it would be the perfect antidote to the too-boy mall emo and the too-scary radio rock, if only it weren't too smart to care or pay attention.
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How fitting then, that on this leg of their tour, Gene Defcon matches Bratmobile mark for mark in over-the-top rock peevishness. Defcon, formerly Chris Lyons, a Cypress, Texas, native and a University of Texas advertising major, fronted Austin's most sex-cellent Brit pop band, the Primadonnas, under the name Otto Mattik. After the synth-based act broke up, Lyons moved to Olympia, Washington. Defcon's first full-length recording, Come Party with Me, appeared last year, available in two versions: a cassette that contained over 40 tunes, and a CD containing twice as many, all under a minute or two and almost all containing the word "baby." Defcon's shtick is not merely a takeoff on sleaziness, but an attempt at being sleazy by a man too goofy to pull it off entirely. Sleaziness, as a whole, is a rather admirable thing. Between Wolfe and Defcon, here's hoping that any audience has as much fun as they do.