Monday, November 7, 2011

Album Review: Girl In A Coma - Exits And All the Rest

Album Rating: B
If you know anything about 70's rock and roll, or if you happened to catch 2010's biopic The Runaways, you probably understand that Joan Jett is sort of a badass. Feverish, fierce, and oftentimes fucked up, Jett was able to claw and climb her way through the rock ranks of the 70's and 80's, not only with her original band The Runaways, but also as a solo artist and alongside her more renowned troupe, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Jett's focus was not limited to her own music though, and the early 1980's saw the start of her and Kenny Laguna's independent label, Blackheart Records. Not only has Blackheart released many of Jett's own chart-topping singles, they have also helped to propel a handful of more recent bands into the spotlight, one of the most relevant of which is San Antonio's Girl In A Coma. Adding the post-punk sensibilities that one would expect from a band named after a Smiths song to a slightly less filtered pop-punk approach (and one that certainly appeases even Jett herself), Girl In A Coma have made quite a name for themselves in the Southwestern United States. With the release of their fourth LP, Exits And All the Rest, GIAC showcase just how loud and indelible three girls with amps and microphones can be.

With a sound that falls somewhere between that of The Runaways themselves and modern contemporary psych-rockers Warpaint, Girl In A Coma certainly put the right foot forward in leaving a lasting impression on their audience. Piloting the ordeal is front-woman Nina Diaz, whose powerful pipes lend Exits And All the Rest the dynamic edge that it needs to stand out amongst the numerous efforts of its peers. Bluntly put, GIAC stand tall on the shoulders of Diaz, augmenting a musical stature that would most likely come up short without so magnetic a vocalist. Diaz demonstrates such vocal mastery right from the get go on Exits…, with opening track 'Adjust' featuring a voice that brings an otherwise mediocre musical backdrop to life. Despite some slightly outdated riffage and a few less-than-impressive jam-session attempts, all three band members try hard to make their musical presence known, but none more so than Diaz. She shines bright throughout Exits…, even when her band shows signs of lagging behind. A track like 'She Had A Plan' sees Diaz just wailing along with cathartic, fuzzed-up feedback, making way for a truly unbridled, Jett-inspired finale.

Though the group's name pays homage to lyrical legend Morrissey, the same can rarely be said for their songwriting. Apart from a few radiant moments, the lyrical content of Exits… consistently hovers somewhere between unremarkable and pedestrian. Asshole acquaintances, boyfriends (or girlfriends) who didn't call when they said they would, and other personal trivialities are covered on the record, though tepid songwriting doesn't necessarily detract from the LP's quality. The more impressively written tracks like 'Cemetery Baby' or closer 'Mother's Lullaby' provide a glimpse into Diaz's ability to back a powerful voice with an equally affecting message. Still, the allure of Exits… lies not in its ability to convey profundities and tell magnificent stories; rather, the record's charm is wholly contained within the grace and tact from which these three Texas girls can extract a handful of hard-hitting tracks. As would be expected from a label anchored in the D.I.Y. predilection of 80's punk, the record's production is mostly raw and almost never overbearing, allowing Girl In A Coma to stand unabashedly behind their music and its authentic potency.

While not the most consistent release, Exits And All the Rest has enough memorable moments to produce some strong singles at the very least. Girl In A Coma owe much of this effectiveness to the vim and vigor of front-woman Diaz, whose sincere, impactful voice allows for the album's multi-faceted yet perfectly accessible tracks to really hit home. Appealing to a largely ranging audience, from intermediary pop-punk lovers to fans of the shoegaze-laden tracks of Warpaint and The Smiths, Exits And All the Rest affixes itself as a 2011 release worth checking out from three girls who have obviously studied up on their rock and roll.

Stream it over at NPR.

Track List:
1. Adjust
2. One-Eyed Fool
3. Smart
4. She Had a Plan
5. So
6. Cemetery Baby
7. Knocking At Your Door
8. Hope
9. Control
10. Sly
11. Mother's Lullaby

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