Reviewed on this page:
Babysitters On Acid - Binge And Purge - Jerk Of All Trades
- Pretty Ugly - Drop Dead Live - Luxury Problem
Somehow the Lunachicks were overlooked in the whole Riot Grrrl
marketing phenomenon, despite hailing from NYC's East Village, conveniently located in the media capital of the world.
They're a highly politicized, feminist
all-female loud rock band, but they never attracted a tenth of the
attention paid to L7 or 7 Year Bitch. I guess it's because
the Lunachicks have less of a hardcore/grunge aesthetic: they use
overdubs and even occasional guitar effects, plus they articulate
their words so you can actually understand them. But they're hardly
Neil Diamond: lyrics frequently focus on excretory functions and
misogyny, besides plain old-fashioned spleen. Theo's voice takes
some getting used to: it doesn't have the raw power you expect from
a hard rocker, but she uses it effectively to put across irony and
sarcasm. As of now the band is on hiatus; Theo has a dance-oriented solo project and Gina is fronting a new band, Bantam.
We don't review videos, but if you want to get an idea of what the band is about, you should check out their 1999
video XXX Naked. Here's a pretty good fan site.
Theo Kogan, vocals; Sydney Silver a.k.a. Squid, bass, vocals; Gina, lead
guitar, vocals; Sindi B., guitar; Becky Wreck, drums. Wreck left circa 1992, replaced by Chip.
Sindi left, 1997; Chip left, 1999, replaced by Helen Destroy.
Babysitters On Acid (1990)
Their debut shows them already fully developed as infantile, post-punk, pop culture and scatology-obsessed retro-rockers - fortunately.
Theo's sense of humor carries "Jan Brady," the title track and "Mabel Rock," an ode to What's Happening star Mabel King, not to
mention "Makin' It With Other Species" and "Octopussy." But beneath the jokes, there's some just plain great rock and roll ("Complication"),
with solid riffs ("Pin Eye Woman 665"), unexpected tempo shifts (title track), brisk drumming, and occasional mock guitar god heroics.
The only real weak point is the endless, useless jam on "Theme Song."
Produced by Wharton Tiers, and I don't know if it's his fault, but the recording quality is much lower than subsequent releases - the bass
is barely audible, and even the crunching guitars occasionally get buried, and purely on that basis I recommend all their other studio work more highly.
Binge And Purge (1992)
Produced by Mason Temple and the band, and the clean sound
brings out the good musicianship (drumming in particular) though
Gina is far from the terror she would later become. Here the lyrics
focus on menstruation ("Plugg"), misogyny ("Superstrong") and
bulimia (title track), besides pure punk spleen like "11" and
"Apathetic." There's also a beautiful character study
of a suburban housewife ("Mom") with a crunching Zepworthy riff. Theo's voice doesn't have much
edge to it, and several of the tunes drag (the endless "Rip U"),
but the attitude is fresh, and the words are a treat.
Sushi A La Mode (1993)
Recorded and released in Japan; includes early versions of "Ring + Run" and "Light As A Feather"
and a cover of "More Than A Feeling." The hidden gem, though, is the lurching "Bring Me Down."
Jerk Of All Trades (1995)
They're doing their damnedest to live up to their name
here: it's so far out their previous stuff sounds conformist by
comparison. Nothing is too bizarre for them, as they throw Spanish
acoustic guitar into a punk song ("Drop Dead"), chain six or eight
distinct pieces of music together under the same lyrics ("Deal With
It"), or spit out incomprehensible reflections on childhood ("Light
As A Feather"). Except for a few brief punk raveups ("Buttplug"),
each tune changes direction and/or tempo at least twice, and after
a while you give up on figuring out the structure and just let it
happen to you. It's enough to make tunes like "Bitterness Barbie"
and the gender-bending story song "Brickface + Stucco" seem like
standard fare. "Insomnia" is about the only straightforward track
here, a catchy hardcore rocker. Somehow the band has the chops to
get away with all this weirdness, careening through all the abrupt
changes with gusto, ripping out rapid-fire Zappa-like riffs on "F.D.S." and deftly
stacking spare power chords over limber bass lines. Oh, and there's
also interesting social commentary ("Spoilt") and feminist rage
("Fallopian Rhapsody") plus amusing pop culture references. The
grossout factor is overdone throughout, and there are a number of
uninspired licks, but overall it's a hell of a lot of fun.
Produced by Ray Martin. (DBW)
Pretty Ugly (1997)
Produced by Ryan Greene and Fat Mike, and they return things to
relative normalcy: the songs are mostly in standard verse-chorus
form, and the off-kilter guitar riffs are kept to a minimum,
replaced by the repetitive rhythm guitar crunching that seems to be
de rigeur today ("Don't Want You"). Meanwhile, the vocals are also less idiosyncratic, with a bland tunefulness
recalling Blondie. Conceptually they're starting
to repeat themselves, though their meditation on PMS rocks anyway
("*@#%!*"). In particular, their take on pop culture's not quite as
fresh: "Dear Dotti" and "Spork" sound like they could've been
written by a hundred other bands. But there's still a lot to enjoy:
"Mr. Lady" is a terrific melodic rocker that just happens to be
about a transsexual; "The Day Squid's Gerbil Died" is lighthearted
and sentimental at the same time; "What's Left" and "Throwin It
Away" continue to explore contemporary society with a
thoughtfulness unusual inside or outside of punk. Solidly enjoyable
for the band's fans. (DBW)
Drop Dead Live (1998)
Recorded live at Coney Island High with a four-piece, one-guitar lineup (rhythm guitarist Sindi had defected). The format plays up the
band's weaknesses (Theo's tendency to bellow, an overreliance on toilet humor) while hiding their strengths (brilliant riffs, varied
arrangements). With rushed tempos, a thinner sound, and sloppy playing to boot, they sound like a female version of the Ramones, which may be your cup of
tea but sure isn't mine. The songs are drawn almost entirely from the two previous discs (except for "Crash," not released until 1999),
and they're still catchy ("Spoilt"), but much less precise and powerful than the studio versions ("FDS"). Theo's continual asides to the
audience are amusing, but they're also the only fresh material here - even for fans, this is marginal. No producer listed.
Luxury Problem (1999)
When the Lunachicks are at their best they're still terrifyingly good: putting together tuneful hard rock instant
classics ("Nowhere Fast," "Crash," "Hope To Die"), rocking out with punk ferocity ("I'll Be The One") or just spewing bile (the
beauty queen diss "Less Teeth More Tits"). Themes include a celebration of masturbation ("Cuming Into My Own")
and an ode to the Z-movie schlockmeisters at Troma ("Terror Firmer"). Oh, and more spewing bile ("Knuckle Sandwich").
But without Sindi, the sound is sometimes hollow despite the loudness (title track), and
the arrangements can lack spark ("Bad Ass Bitch"), with none of the gear-shifting antics that made Jerk such an
unpredictable treat. Still, with Theo's broad grandstanding, Gina's retro AOR solos ("Shut You Out") and Chip's inventive drumming -
Squid's bass isn't heard to best advantage - there's plenty to like. No producer listed.
Bantam (Bantam: 2002)
Gina's side project, with Pete of the FireGods on drums and Doug-O on bass.
Theo & The Skyscrapers (Theo & The Skyscrapers: 2006)
Theo's new band project with boyfriend Sean Pierce plus Chris Kling and Dimitry Makhnovsky.
Stop the insanity.