Kittie

Paperdoll EP (Artemis Records/Ng Records)

If the Spice Girls were the pabulum for our Daughters of the Glorious Revolution, Kittie is the bitchy manifestation of their terminally insufferable adolescence. To a generation of girls who raised their spangly braceleted wrists in the girl power salute when they were 8, this is the rigid digit. Paperdoll is really just a radio edit of the single of the same name, plus five live tracks from the Hultsfred Festival in Sweden. It's all still plugging the band's last full-length, Spit -- a necessary evil, if evil was ever truly necessary in the first place.

For some reason, we always feel the need to compliment female musicians on their musical competence, whether they possess it or not. This has had a nasty sort of Affirmative Action effect -- you can't say it's crap because, well, just because, and as a result, a lot of feeble material gets by, thereby strengthening the unspoken misogyny. The fact that Kittie needs to justify its presence on this stage is patronizing, but its presence is plenty justified. These chicks play with diabolical ferocity. Pity it's free of invention. It is the sound of four angry monologues, declared in precision lockstep. At no point does musical dialogue enter the equation -- all eyes focused forward. Sisterhood -- yeah.

The passion quotient is difficult to divine. In a genre where everything must be screamed into hell's own ventilation shaft, it's difficult to address intent on a scale of 1 to 10. The level of songwriting exceeds that of many of their brothers in arms -- at least the band isn't afraid of a genuine chorus, which is kind of refreshing. Kittie growls and Kittie howls; Kittie hisses and spits, claws out. It does exactly what it says on the box -- an army of angry virgin girls, the churning sound of drop tunings and distortion, sub-Sabbath riffage and that ubiquitous "Aren't I evil?" pitch shift on the vocals for that inchoate rage feeling, broken up with empty moaning bridges full of howling feedback and half-time drums. "Are you motherfuckers ready?" spits Kittie. Well, I suppose so, if we must. "Thank you very fucking much," roars Kittie. Why, you're welcome. It is the sound of an eight-legged metal beast with PMS and a mean hangover, which would be enough to leave the boys under any day.

Of course, Kittie's members are teenagers. The whole women-in-rock ball and chain is not of their making, and you almost feel for them as they try so hard to prove something. What that something may be is another question entirely. Nu-metal (or whatever) has always been a very exclusive tree house for angry young men. Some presumed that women did not possess sufficient rage to play in the sandbox; others assume that women just can't play. One always had to wonder if most women found themselves frustrated by the two-note emotional vocabulary, the stifling conservatism and the endless posturing of the genre, got bored and went off to do something a little more adventurous, but hey! Like it or not, in the year 2001 young women standing on a stage with super-loud, super-phallic strap-ons saying "fuck you" is still a political act, an act that holds more personal danger and cultural power than their spotty suburban brothers could ever muster with the same tools. Much will be made of the metal-baby sex kitten pose, but if Mick Jagger could milk it from '64 to '78 without undermining his "credibility," then Kittie certainly has the right to do the same.

So Kittie has succeeded in proving that it can play alongside a bunch of psychotic Muppets with hard-ons who all hate their mothers. Big deal? Maybe. We should be relieved that Kittie exists, if only to give a loud, spirited-yet-formulaic "fuck you" for the girls' team.

 
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