The LA power duo aren’t afraid to speak their minds – and they do it with wicked humour, righteous anger and massive riffs
Hatred can become like food, it gives you this energy that you can, like, live off of.” These are the wise words of Angela Chase, 15-year-old heroine of prime grunge-era angst-fest My So-Called Life, on the day she finally got over teen love Jordan Catalano.
The ’90s were a great era for righteous female anger, in music especially, but you’ve got to be careful with ire. It can be food, or it can be poison. You can let it fuel you, or fool you. And, if we’re talking about feminist anger in particular, you can make it energy for change, or you can gorge on it and let it consume you. Right from the off, the witty title that Deap Vally give their debut album shows you how they choose to use their rage.
They’ve been vocal of late about the frustrations they’ve felt making their way as a female duo, and have supported Grimes’ blog protests on similar subjects. ‘Woman Of Intention’ and ‘Raw Material’ go into detail on those rankles, being seething, straight-setting slaps of itchy irritation. “Pencil-pusher with a pension/You ain’t ever even broke a string… what can you teach me?”, Lindsey Troy sneers during the former, while the latter issues a warning to anyone who might view the duo as in need of some masterful shaping.
Deap Vally certainly aren’t afraid to say what needs to be said, and they do it with style and wit. Their feminist concerns are bound to draw simplistic comparisons to riot grrrl, but these two are closer to the humour and rock chops of female grunge outfits like LA band L7 or Minneapolis trio Babes In Toyland than shouty sloganeers. Part of the joy of their sound is the way they reclaim the most unreconstructed pig-rock for their own ends: they rock just because they want to. Take ‘Walk Of Shame’, giddy with lust and triumph, which reclaims the morning after some unexpected romping as an occasion for pride, but makes it something universal and funny; it could just as well be sung by a man. I mean, we’ve all been there. When you write down what the songs are about, it does start to sound like some sort of feminist manifesto. And it is, in a way. But Deap Vally’s great triumph is just making it sound like two women talking about their lives with laughter and style and sense and massive riffs, in a way that anyone of any gender could get with.
The raw, scrappy ‘Creeplife’ – which is reminiscent of L7’s ‘Freak Magnet’ – puts two fingers up to sleazy letches. The strutting, squalling ‘Baby I Call Hell’ is pretty much Aretha Franklin’s version of ‘Respect’ fed through the filter of Led Zep, telling a bad-news boyfriend that he better shape up or shit off. ‘Make My Own Money’ finds Lindsey crowing, “Gonna make my own money/Gonna buy my own land!” as an answer to her father’s insistence that she’d need to marry a rich man to get by.
Probably most fun of all is ‘Your Love’, a womb-felt tribute to a younger man who both girls dallied with. Playing on her own surname, Lindsey howls a perfect inversion of the Helen Of Troy ideal: “You got you got the face, the face to launch a thousand ships/You got you got the hands the hands to touch a thousand hips!” It’s massive, filled with mischief, infatuation, mania and glee.
They close with ‘Six Feet Under’, their epic. Spreading and sprawling and tripping out, Lindsey mewls and groans like
a spirit in purgatory. The hidden track, too – a haunting, broken country-blues lament – shows they can do tender and sad as well as hellcat rancour. There’s much more to come from this most powerful of power duos than just being Angry Women. Sisters, doing it for the good of everyone, I salute you.