May 18, 2010

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Douglas Martin once held auditions for a To-Wong Fu-style girl-punk band, but lost his gold bra and brunette wig before the first practice.

Unlike some of my more clever peers, I don’t want to over-romanticize the concept of the “all-girl band,” but over the past two years, a great deal of the promising new punk-skewing outfits in underground music have exclusively featured women. From Los Angeles, home of the four bands featured in Jeff’s LA Times article from a couple months back (plus, the excellent Warpaint), to the cramped lofts of Brooklyn (Vivian Girl), to the dusky post-punk of Explode Into Colors (Portland’s Best New Band in 2009), to San Francisco’s Grass Widow (who generated a second-wave of renewed interest in legendary London band The Raincoats), it’s been something akin to riot grrl redux for the American Apparel generation. And now, it’s time to add a new crew of talented young women who have literally exploded onto the scene within the past two weeks, Costa Rica’s Las Robertas.

There’s a song on debut full-length Cry Out Loud called “Damn ‘92”, which appropriately summarizes their aesthetic (as much as you can from one song title). Almost everything about the band points toward the year Clinton won office, from the scorched guitars to the loud-as-piss drums rising to the top of the mix. A lot of the early press favorably compares the band to the aforementioned Vivian Girls, but that’s only a half-truth; Las Robertas carry a Vivian-Girls-as-produced-by-Steve-Albini instrumental heft, all melodic sludge and shards of confrontational feedback. For those finding a Courtney Love-sized, ahem, hole left when the widow of Cobain started stumbling down the brown brick road, there is a lot to love in the half-hour that Los Robertas provide.

“In Between Blues” is a mainstream-alternative radio staple waiting to happen, with sugary altos in unison singing, “You’re the one for me” in a bored, disaffected tone. Perhaps the comparisons to modern Ronettes-influenced punk bands come from the classic swipe of the drums from “Be My Baby” on “Street Feelings”. The one-two-three punch of “The Curse”, “Ballroom”, and “Ghost Lover” are all bolstered by authoritative vocals reminiscent of Black Tambourine’s Pam Berry, placed right in front and missing the reverb which most of her peers and devotees used as a cloak to record their voices. Best of all is penultimate track “V for You”, which employs wordless backing vocals and glockenspiel to kick things off. The tension mounts and mounts until the cathartic gravitas of the ending brings everything to a crashing halt.

If Carles wants to make his dream of getting into a long-term relationship with one of the members of Los Robertas a reality, he better hop on the ball pretty damn quick. With an LP like Cry Out Loud, the girls will be playing their American debut in New York City in no time flat.

Download Cry Out Loud, courtesy of their Bandcamp page