“Garage rock” is a sub-genre of rock that is raw, amateurish, and characterized by a the use of distorted fuzzy guitars and aggressive vocals. The term is derived from the idea that these bands often practiced in their garages. The first wave of garage rock was popularized in the late ’60s with bands like The Seeds, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Standells, The Troggs, etc. The style began to fade out in the early ’70s, giving way to the more aggressive sounds of bands like The Stooges and MC5, who became the link between ’60s garage rock and ’70s punk. But, the genre was revived, in the ’80s, with underground bands like The Chesterfield Kings, The Fuzztones, DMZ, The Pandoras, and Lyres; and, again, in the early 2000s, with “post-punk” bands who achieved mainstream success like The Strokes, The Hives, The Vines, and The White Stripes …
OK, so that’s a very concise summary of a (relatively) diverse sub-genre. I love garage rock, and, I love garage rock girls. The Pandoras were an influential all-female garage rock band, led by the late Paula Pierce. “In And Out Of My Life (In A Day)”, from Stop Pretending (1986), is one of the best damn singles you’ve never heard! The Pandoras were a great garage rock band, from the ’80s, but, let me tell you about two of my favorite garage rock bands from the 2000s, both female-fronted …
First, The Downbeat 5 …
The Downbeat 5 is from Boston, MA, and, was formed in 1999 by J. J. Rassler (lead guitar/vocals) and his then-wife Jen D’Angora (lead vocals/guitar). Rassler was formerly in the influential Boston-based garage punk band DMZ, whose sound is echoed in The Downbeat 5. But, the band’s more obvious inspirations are The Stooges, circa Raw Power (1973), and The Rolling Stones, circa Exile on Main St (1972). But, they also cite ’70s punk and ’60s girl groups as other influences.
The Downbeat 5‘s debut album, Ism (2003), is a minor garage rock masterpiece! Jen‘s snarled vocals recall the late Paula Pierce of The Pandoras, while her band’s raw power is firmly rooted in The Stooges‘ proto-punk. “(I’ve Been) Kicked Around”, “My Way”, “I’m Not Waiting”, “I Found Out”, and “Still Don’t Have Her Love” are my favorites, but, “Cryin’ In The Night”, “Got It Bad”, and “Don’t Come Cryin’ To Me” are great tracks, too.
The Downbeat 5 followed up Ism, in 2006, with Victory Motel, which was more varied in its influences. “Out In The Streets” recalls that ’60s girl group sound mentioned as an influence, while “Outcast” sounds a little like Ike & Tina Turner, while “Lonesome Town”, a duet with Rassler, brings to mind Johnny Cash. The album is good, especially the final track “Lie Again”, but, I prefer Ism. The Downbeat 5 also released a live album, Smoke & Mirrors, in 2007, which contained 2 tracks from Ism, 3 from Victory Motel, and other assorted goodies.
Jen D’Angora also formed The Dents in late 2002/early 2003 with bassist Michelle Paulhus (ex-The Decals), and, released one album, Time For Biting (2004). D’Angora and Paulhus shared vocals in The Dents, and, the band’s sound was more pop/punk, even Replacements-esque, but “Not Through With You” is definitely reminiscent of The Downbeat 5. More recently, D’Angora formed Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents to “indulge in her love of the girl group sounds of the ’60s,” and, released their soulful debut Keeping Time in 2010. Lovely!
Next, The Love Me Nots …
The Love Me Nots are from Phoenix, AZ, and, I love them lots! They play reverb-drenched, retro 60’s garage rock with Farfisa organ, fuzzed-out guitars and trashy backbeats! They might be from Phoenix, but, their sound is straight out of Detroit, similar to The Detroit Cobras, but, more rock, less R&B-ish. LMN are fronted by Farfisa-playing minx, Nicole Laurenne. She’s like a wolf in heat disguised as a cuddly kitten wearing a mini-dress and go-go boots! Nicole formed the band in 2006 with her husband, Michael Johnny Walker (guitar), but, she has a secret identity, too – by night, she’s rock star Nicole Laurenne, and, by day, she’s Judge Laurin-Walker of the Gilbert Municipal Court in Maricopa County, AZ!
LMN have released five albums [well, four really] to date, and, all are amazing in their own retro groovy kind of ways, but, I’ll rank them anyway …
Detroit (2008), LMN‘s 2nd album, is the band’s grittiest, most punk, release. “You’re Really Something”, “Give ‘Em What They Want”, and “I’m the One” are badass, but “Love Letter” and “Black & Blue” are even badassier! In “Black & Blue”, Nicole promises: “Give me that black & blue heart / I’ll turn it cherry red.” I love that! And, the final track, “Shaken”, is one of the best songs The Animals never wrote. The Animals, by the way, were a 60’s British Invasion garage rock band, led by Eric Burdon, who had a #1 hit with “The House of the Rising Sun”. Detroit, right now, is my favorite LMN album.
Upsidedown Insideout (2009), LMN‘s 3rd album, is not as gritty Detroit, but, it’s close, with great tracks like “Do What You Do”, “You Don’t know a Thing About Me”, “You’re Bringing Me Down”, “He’s What I Want”, “The Kinda Love I Got”, and, a whole lot of other groovy songs. This album used to be my favorite, but, Detroit recently edged itself up, by a margin. However, “Do What You Do” remains my favorite LMN song (and video)!
So, watch the video for “Do What You Do” here:
Those eyes! That voice! Those moves! Those legs!!
In Black & White (2006), LMN‘s 1st album, opens with the rocking “Move In Tight”, charging forth with Farfisa riffs and guitar fuzz, never once letting up until the last note of the soulful ballad “Broken” fades. “Mine”, “Break Your Heart”, and “I Do” are favorites. Great debut!
The Demon and the Devotee (2011), LMN‘s 4th album, is where I, first, stumbled upon this band, by accident, and, I was hooked after the furious first track, “The End of the Line”. Other cool tracks are “I’m Gonna Be Your Girl”, “Demons”, “I’m Not Okay”, and “Cheap Knockoff.” I love this album’s cover, too!
Finally, Let’s Get Wrecked (2012), LMN‘s 5th album, is my least favorite because it’s not really an album proper. It includes 6 essential LMN tracks (2 each from the first 3 albums), plus 4 dance remixes, and 2 remixes with french vocals. They’re big in France, apparently.
Nicole Laurenne, Michael Johnny Walker, and LMN bassist Lindsay Bair also formed the “electro-fuzz” band Zero Zero, and, released their debut 8-track EP MAYDAY in 2012. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs-esque “Tear It Up” is my favorite track. They recently released a 2nd 8-track EP, Zero Zero + 1 (2014), with one new studio track (“You Know What To Do”) and 7 live cuts. Cool!
So, Jen & Nicole: 2 garage rock girls, 5 different bands … check ’em all out!