LA punk brats stay true to their roots
The Smell, then. You heard of it? Yeah, you must have. Surely. Surely by now you’re aware of the all-ages, no-alcohol, DIY club that seems to function as some kind of interstellar uterus, summoning forth bands from other, radder galaxies and hurling them out into the squalor of downtown Los Angeles, fully-formed and snot-drenched.
No Age. Abe Vigoda. HEALTH. The Mae Shi. If these names mean anything to you then rejoice: for it’s the turn of The Smell’s resident girl (and one boy) gang Mika Miko to step forth with their first new album since you and all your friends started wearing flannel and agreeing that everything ever is just “awesome, dude”.
As it clatters into earshot, the most immediately surprising thing about ‘We Be Xuxa’ is that it sounds pretty much how you’d expect it to, ie confused, teenage and drunk. It’s odd, because none of the other break-out Smell bands have much in common with SoCal’s power-chord punk tradition; especially the terror-textured HEALTH or polar opposites The Mae Shi, who sound like the Muppets given ecstasy and with it the guts to finally ponder adolescence.
In contrast, and despite the occasional, inspired honk from Jenna Thornhill’s sax, Mika Miko are a very Californian punk band – like so many have been before, like so many will be after. ‘Wildbore’ and ‘Beat The Rush’ resuscitate the obnoxious body of work X, Red Cross and The Germs left strewn in their wake, while ‘Sex’ is a Urinals cover and ‘I Got A Lot (New New New)’ is pure Descendents, Thornhill and co-singer Jennifer Clavin hollering away over guitar blasts and nagged-at bass.
Mika Miko do have ways of evading LA’s punk past, however; that aforementioned sax lending ‘Sex Jazz’ and ‘Keep On Calling’ a sour, no-wave strut, while the band’s goofball sense of humour deems it necessary for there to be not one but two odes to turkey sandwiches on the album (one is a reprise).
Ultimately, Mika Miko’s redemption lies not in records but onstage and in that live show honed at The Smell. In London last year the quintet really were awesome – Clavin led the brats, bleating shrill into the telephone receiver that carries her mic as a couple of girls in the front row catfought with hair-pulls and open-palm face-slaps. It was a display of violence perfectly suited to ‘We Be Xuxa’, Mika Miko and most of their local punk
idols – pointless, innocuous, but ridiculous fun.