self released, 2011, DD EP, 18m 33s
$3 or more
It’s easy to form a punk band: just get some drums and guitars, make up some punk songs, and play them at some punk gigs. If you’re not too sure exactly how to do it, just listen to some Lagwagon or Blink 182 records: you can sing about getting drunk and being a bit naughty in a car; if you’re boys you can sing about girls; if you’re girls you can sing about boys. Perhaps you can get your parents to pay for a ‘top local producer’ so your recordings can have that slick, glossy sound with rich, full range guitars, tight drums and perfect harmonised vocals, just like Green Day.
Personally, I only missed punk by ten years, which is to say that I was a punk twenty-five years ago: I know a thing or two about it, and I can tell you, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that what I described in the paragraph above bears absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to anything that deserves to bear the name of punk. So, in that case, what does? Well, Doll Fight! would be a pretty good example.
How can I tell? There are a number of giveaways. One is that Morning Again is an album of nine songs, and it comes in at eighteen-and-a-half minutes. This is not to say that ‘punk-ness’ can be reduced to a directly proportional relationship with song length (that arms race has long been owned by Napalm Death); but this is a band that is very obviously not in love with the sound of its own voice. Each song is a statement, and when its content has been adequately articulated, they stop playing it.
Another sign is that although these women obviously know how to play their instruments, and are plainly in command of the sound they’re making, they never make the mistake of thinking that’s what’s good about their music. They never hold up a slick guitar lick as a token of quality; and they never make the mistake made by the bands mentioned in my opening paragraph, of polishing their songs until they’ve rubbed off everything that was good about them.
These songs express anger, and individual power, and political commitment: not just in their lyrics, but in the oppositional nature of the sound and production. The vocals avoid the yawning pit-trap laid for female vocalists in any genre of rock, of disarming their own subversive potential by sounding ‘pretty’. Instead they waver alarmingly on either side of pitch, and sarcastically declaim their meanings with stress patterns that transform a personal expression into a call to arms. The recording puts the band in an audible space, emphasising their reality and physicality, as three real women who played some songs in a real place: this is also an oppositional tactic, in a musical world that seeks to turn rebellion into a marketable commodity by constructing recordings around a sense of unreality and perfect clarity.
Doll Fight! don’t buy any of that bullshit on this superb EP. They just call it how they see it: they call it loud, and fast, and then they move on. That is the true spirit of punk.