Why focus a post on women? After all, it’s not like we focus one on men and their accomplishments. Or don’t we? In a way nearly all posts about rock and roll are about men because men dominate the music industry. Despite comprising more than 50% of the human race research on gender and popular music finds that women total only 20% of popular music performers, 12% of songwriters and just 3% of producers. And they mostly go it alone, largely performing as solo artists. Just 7% of popular music features women in bands. Now the typical response from the gallery at this point might be something like ‘well, maybe listeners just don’t prefer the music women are putting out.’ But as we’ll show in today’s post, that’s bogus. Women rock and in the very best melodic ways.
Forget the crimson, it’s all Clover on my music player right now. Kate Clover is a rock and roll force to be reckoned with. The internet is chock full of glowing notices for her debut album Bleed Your Heart Out and deservedly so. The album opens with a bass guitar rumble that kickstarts a dance party that just won’t quit. “Crimewave” conjures up the heat of the club and a dance floor pulsing with bodies. And things just keep getting more and more intense from there. Reviews lean on ‘punk’ to describe what is going on here but I hear more of the rock and roll reaction to the punk scene, how it added a dynamic and exciting edge to bands like Blondie and the Pretenders. The Chrissie Hynde feel is definitely there on “Gnarcissist” and “Heaven Down Here.” I hear a bit of Liverpool’s Zuzu on “Channel Zero” and “Pleasure Forever,” the latter also featuring some mesmerizing, kinetic electric guitar work. I love the catchy harsh jangle defining “Love You to Death” while the vocal reminds me of a punky revival of The Motels’ Martha Davis. The Davis vibe comes back again for me on “Daisy Cutter.” And who wouldn’t love a jump rocker with a dash of Sergio Leone like “Follow My Heart”? This album is a relentless rocking affair in the best way. Once you hit play there’s no way to turn it off until its done.
When I got wind of Linda XO’s “California Girl” I didn’t connect the dots to her work with poprock masters The Orion Experience, despite reviewing a number of their records. But the more I dug into her catalogue the more obvious the links were. First up, “California Girl” is the totally poptastic new single from her upcoming 2023 album Donuts and Flowers. You need only listen to the first few lines to hear the Mike Viola hooks on this Candy Butchers cover. Hard to do but Linda XO brings out even more of the tune’s earwormy melody than the original, sounding not unlike a number of Viola-produced projects e.g. Kelly Jones’ SheBang album. From there I went back in time, checking out her 2021 Linda XO EP and 2020’s Stupid Love. I wasn’t disappointed. The tracks on Linda XO EP have a sophistico-pop elan, vibing a bit of The Sundays and Ivy. Stupid Love resurrects the world of mid-1960s UK dollybirds and American westcoast pop songters but filtered through a more modern pop sensibility, kinda like what Sharleen Spiteri did on her 2008 LP Melody. “I Think I Love You” is a case in point with its saucy soul groove and early 1960s pop elan. Other tracks like “Fun” and “Stupid Love” sound more 1980s-edgy alt-pop. But the variety doesn’t stop there. You’ve got “Jing a ling” with its Ike Reilly talking-song bounce or “Leona” showcasing a rhythmic rock and roll lurch reminiscent of Marshall Crenshaw’s “Someday Someway.” Personally I dig “Moving On” as just a straight-up good-time radio single. And that’s barely half the record. Like anything from The Orion Experience this record is just so much irrepressible fun. Seems the solo apple doesn’t fall far.
On “Out of My Mouth” Madeline Rosene starts out like Sinead O’Connor but somewhere segues into Tracy Thorn. So the vocals are pretty up front here, but not in that vocal pyrotechnics style so prevalent today. Instead Rosene’s style is alluring, drawing you into a tapestry of sounds, alternatively comforting and challenging. As an LP, that’s Everyday Existential Crisis brought into focus, an album of many moods. “Out of My Mouth” starts out light, like an early morning walk in the park. Then “Words” turns meditative and ethereal, a lovely number whose low-key melody gets into your head. “Burn” shifts the mood into a contemporary great American songbook style. And so on. Rosene just keeps shifting the emotional focus song by song but somehow establishes a coherent ambience to the whole undertaking. Check out how “Hearts on Fire” lets the pumping piano chords drive the song, interspersed with more reflective moments. Shifting down, title track “Everyday Existential Crisis” has a carefully crafted acoustic Jill Sobule intimacy, though it could fit on any early Everything but the Girl album. “Lobotomy” has the sound of a single to me, particularly when it picks up tempo a third of the way through. Or maybe the hit single is the 1990s dark pop aura all over the Liz Phair-ish “Sugar” that wraps up the album? I can’t decide. What I do know is that Everyday Existential Crisis is a now record, capturing the emotional texture of our musical times. It’s intense, sometimes seemingly ambivalent, but curious and reassuring all at the same time.
Towering over us, these 50 foot women have got the rock and roll stuff of your dreams. Just click the links to make them real.
Photo: Fragment of “La formation de la personnalite,” collage by Jacques Rozier.