Week 67

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The Donnas

'Gold Medal' Album

Atlantic Records


Direct from the west coast, which a verve and a nerve, with a chunk of funk and a crock of rock The Donnas deliver their 'difficult' second album with ease. 'Gold Medal' takes no prisoners, it's direct and to the point, it's no nonsense, it talks the talk and it walks the walk, there is no messing around here, just plug in and play, it's what they do, and it's what you should do too. Putting it simply, this is a rip roaring sonic cavalcade from start to finish, and you should not only listen to it, you should leap around like a lunatic to it.

It'd be easy and indeed lazy, to categorise The Donnas as 'chicks with guitars', the whole Bangles thing springs mind; the Californian sunshine, upbeat, guitar driven songs, the infectious melodies, the general good-time aura, all offered by a bunch of good looking birds intent on having a good old time. The more politically correct of you might ask why it's important to note that they are women, and indeed, why is it important to say that they are good looking? - well, this is why - it's because I'm a red-blooded male, and I'd rather look at this lot than at Meatloaf - is that bad?

Right from the outset, 'Gold Medal' is a lesson in strictly controlled aggression, it's forever poised on the brink of explosion, it's edgy and noisy, yet vibrant and melodious. It would be wrong for me to say that it was particularly erudite, sophisticated or intelligent, but what the hell, this record is simply (and simply is possibly the key word here) a great record to put on, crank up the volume and shake your thang to.

Throughout the album The Donnas don't try too hard to be too different, they do what they know, what they are good at, and that means that there are no weak links at all. The sound is consistently that of a sub-punk, semi-thrashy guitar driven pop rock wall of sublimely structured power chord rhythms - always with a passionately tender hint of reverb, and a gentle slice of overdrive. The frequencies never interfere and overload, but they collide enough to make you aware that they are there, doing battle. It's impossible to have this on as background music, it makes you sit up and take notice, it doesn't allow itself to be ignored, it's there with balls, it has attitude by the bucketload, and it's not going to be fucked with.

Opening the album is 'I Don't Want to Know', it's a clear cut assault on the senses, it's an adrenalin induced Les Paul workout. There are hints of influences from a whole array of sources, from the Ramones and The Clash, taking in the early days of The Cure, through to the faux punk pop kids of this century. It's only rock and roll, but we like it. There is more of the same from 'Friends Like Mine', leaving you barely time to draw breath before the onslaught continues. It's high energy, rhythmic, melodious, harmonious noise.

'Don't Break Me Down' shows echoes of Hendrix era Americana, enhanced by modernity, a cleaner and more clear cut sound, but the melody and intensity is there. 'Fall Behind Me' and 'It's So Hard' keep the tempo pulsating. The whole sound seems to swing between out and out rocking and enthused thrashy indie guitar pop.

Title track 'The Gold Medal' veers off at a tangent to the standard pop rockers, it's some where between jaunty and jumpy, musically it blends acoustic guitar riffing and piano lead melodies, with only a suggestion of the grinding guitars of the album thus far. Lyrically it's getting darker and more menacing, but still strangely alluring. 'Out of my Hands' again shifts the tune of the album into another direction, without letting the tempo fail or the intensity stray. 

Rounding off the record are 'It Takes One to Know One', 'Revolver' and 'Have You No Pride'; the former a standard from The Donnas big guitar guide, the latter a lyrical stab at followers of fashion, a coup de grace aimed at maybe their own fans, certainly not intentional, but possibly a little mis-guided. Despite this the album remains, on the face of it a damn good listen, infectious, irresistible, and with an intensity so often lacking in todays chart pop rockers.

In all this is without doubt a guitar fans record, a bunch of hard and fast three minute sonic assaults, covering a wide range of genres whilst rarely straying from it's own distinctly marked formula. If you like a good time, this one's for you, if you like machine gun hailstorms of driving guitar it'll suit you fine. If you like chicks with guitars then well, you probably already have it.

Johnny Mac
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