Cynicism prevails in the current climate of indie angst, and it takes balls for an underground band like cub to make a career of putting out upbeat, even occasionally pretty records. Except balls is one thing (two things?) these Vancouver masters of la-la pop don't have. An all-grrl trio, cub has been slathering indie rock with its tooth-rot-sweet, pop-with-a-tiny-bit-of-punk hybrid for the past four years, inventing (and later disowning) its own subgenre ("cuddlecore") along the way.
The last we heard from cub was 1995's happy-happy Come Out, Come Out, which spent two months atop Canada's national pop chart despite coming out on the tiny B.C. label Mint Records. Bassist Lisa Marr, guitarist Robynn Iwata and drummer Lisa G. have upped the aggression on their latest LP, Box of Hair (one in a recent series of co-releases by Mint and Berkeley-based Lookout! Records), and the song structures are more complex--a needed mark that cub is growing up. As of this writing, Box of Hair was scaling the College Music Journal's Top 10 chart, and cub was on the road with Sebadoh and Northwest neo-folkster Elliot Smith, a tour that stops in Tempe on September 16 at Gibson's (word to the wise--don't bring them candy). Revolver called the cubbies in the Mint offices earlier this month to compare makeup tips (just kidding).
Revolver: First, the inevitable cuddlecore question. You used to like the label, now you supposedly hate it. What's up?
Lisa: (sarcastically) We don't know anything about it. I've never heard of that term before. (pauses) We get shoved in a lot of categories--cuddlecore, happy-happy, girl band, whatever. It happens, and in some ways you can't complain cuz then people at least sort of know what it's about. But it's all old news for us.
Robynn: Being seen as this one-dimensional cartoon cutout propped up in a comic-store window gets pretty tiring. We're fucking sick of that.
Revolver: Box of Hair is on the U.S. college charts--do you think this record's the one to make you indie darlings in America?
Robynn: Boys are already falling at our feet at the shows.
Lisa: We're No. 6 on CMJ right now, and before the album was even released, the presales [orders from distributors] were more than Come Out, Come Out sold altogether. That's like, exciting. But I don't really know what it means. It's just too early to tell.
Revolver: When kids come to see you for the first time, do they seem surprised that your music is so terminally happy?
Lisa: I think there's a bit more diversion from the pretty, happy stuff in the live set because we can be more aggressive and not so la-la happy, and have a bit more fun with it, because the mistakes are right out front for everyone to be amused by.
We played with the Muffs and the Queers last year, and it was interesting because a lot of people were coming to see the Queers and just happened to see us by mistake, or whatever. And I think they were surprised, but they also got into the music for what it was on their own merit, without the cuddlecore bullshit or the happy girlie-band hype. They just came and happened to see us and they seemed to dig it. And that's our favorite situation.
More Grrls in (Uh, Make That "on") Vinyl
Since its inception in 1991, Naked Aggression has been a pillar of the L.A. punk underground, touring incessantly and surviving numerous lineup changes. Now, Mighty Records brings us the March March Alive retrospective. Recorded live at the Gilman St. club in Berkeley, the 15-song LP includes N.A. classics like the pro-choice anthem "Killing Floor" and the band's first single, "They Can't Bring Me Down." Vocalist Kirsten Patches' manic ranting is topnotch on both cuts. This ain't no grrl rock, buddy. March March delivers an in-your-face, smash-the-state, state-of-the-art punk thrashing. (Mighty Records, P.O. Box 1833, Los Angeles, CA 90078)
From the back liner notes for the self-titled solo debut by Kaia, better known as the guitarist for lesbian-punk warriors Team Dresch: "Finally a dyke album for the whole family!" Kaia (just out on Donna Dresch's Chainsaw Records) is actually 13 songs of intensely emotional, acoustic soul purging. The soulful vocals are charged with pain, and Kaia's angry folk/pop guitar work is powerful enough without the electricity. Listeners of the male variety may not relate, but your sister would love this one under the tree on Christmas. (Chainsaw Records, P.O. Box 1151, Olympia, WA 98507-1151)
If you think cub is the epitome of la-la girl rock, then you have yet to hear Go Sailor. Lookout Records has gathered two years' worth of Go Sailor seven-inches and compilation tracks on one self-titled album that has enough sickeningly sweet, megalite pop/punk to satisfy the most heinous of cravings. But singer/guitarist Rose's candy-ass voice is better paired with harsher music (like her previous band Tiger Trap). Without that contrast, this disc sounds like a Barbie soundtrack. And I hate Barbies.
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All Male Revue
Feeling swank? It could be time to bust out with the leather tuxedo and wing tips, cuz the Makers are dropping by Nita's Hideaway on September 17. If you're still naive to these kings of suave sleaze, pick up their latest LP, The Makers, and give yourself a good hit of old-school garage schlock. This is a band that thanks the state of Texas (even though it's from Spokane, Washington), Marvin Gaye and Simon LeBon all in the same paragraph. (Estrus Records, P.O. Box 2125, Bellingham, WA 98227)
Just when you thought (or at least hoped) we'd seen the end of Ramones covers, notorious punk smart ass Reverend Norb (liner notes excerpt: "Unauthorized duplication would pay off more on Screeching Weasel's Ramones LP") and his band Boris the Sprinkler spit out the Ramones' entire 1980 End of the Century LP, reworked Sprinkler-style. If you can get past that every two-bit, punk-rock outfit with an idol complex has done a Ramones cover project in the past two or three years, this punk parody comes across as a fine, funny effort. The revised intro to "Rock 'n' Roll Radio" offers a hilarious explanation of why the band chose to decimate End of the Century over other, arguably more classic Ramones recordings: "We passed that other lackluster piece of shit [Road to Ruin] on to the Mr. T Experience ,who, being from Berkeley, California, cannot be held responsible for their actions." Highlights are "Baby, I Love You" (originally a Phil Spector song), "I'm Affected" and "This Ain't Havana," which kicks the ass of the original version (gasp, sacrilege). (Clearview Records, 2157 Pueblo Drive, Garland, TX 75040)
Locals Snap Krackle Drop just released what will be its last seven-inch on bassist Will Tynor's Social Retardance label. SKD is no longer with us, but with No Love, the band leaves behind a decent representation of the '77 punk/death-rock crossbreed it spawned (picture Sex Pistols vocals/guitar mingled with 45 Graves' horror-show dramatics and Bauhaus' gloomy paranoia). The title track leans a little too hard on the Pistols side of the equation--as in it sounds just like them--but the B-sides "Big Brother" and "Crematorium" make up the difference. A nice slab of Valley punk-rock history you can show your grandkids someday. (Social Retardance Records, P.O. Box 25666 [ooh, the mark of Satan], Tempe, AZ 85285-5666 [hey, now, this is getting creepy.])