Coming out of Chicago with all the force of L7 and 7 Year Bitch, Evil Beaver rocks. Or maybe that should be rawks! Eschewing all expectations for female bands, Evil Beaver follows in the path of the aforementioned pioneers of hard-driving rock that never steers clear of being aggressive, furious, loud, angry, and still finding room for fun. Those who think that women can’t create “real” metal and those who think that the spirit of metal has been abandoned by the current crop of “new metal” bands need to listen to Lick It! and learn.
Evil Beaver is the love child of drummer Laura Ann Beaver and bassist/vocalist Evie Evil. Although limited to two instruments, this stripped-down band never suffers from a lack of sound. Laura Ann’s drumming comes in huge, crashing waves and keeps tight, fast rhythms the par for the course with beats she honed with her previous band, Motorhome. Thanks to feedback and reverb, Evie’s bass is turned into a full sound, easily doing away with the unnecessary (for this band) space usually reserved for guitars. This ability to create dense, complex songs with a bass has led some critics to compare Evie’s playing to Les Claypool’s (Primus). This might be a little bit excessive, but her vocals make comparisons to other giants of metal seem perfectly justified. While certain verses and songs are performed with a flat, alto tone that fits easily into preconceived notions of female alternative rock, Evie is also willing and able to scream her vocals with as much intensity and rage as any of her male counterparts, and even more impressively, it never sounds forced.
In spite of the band’s raw power, the women of Evil Beaver also know how to play up the camp angle of their music. Witness the name of the band and the retro logo and nudie playing cards that adorn Lick It!‘s cover. Or the camp-blues of their cover of “Burnin’ Beaver Blues”. Seamlessly they merge the image of female rock star and angry metal musician into one alluring, sexy, and tough identity. These songs generally speak to themes of women pushed to the edge, but most often they reach for the empowering force of anger rather than the neurotic weepiness that often lingers over many female-written songs (Jewel, anyone?). The best song on the disc is certainly “Muff Control Unit”, which was so instantly familiar that I had to ask Laura Ann whether the song was a cover (answer: no). With its warbling bass and changes between punchy pop and screaming metal, the song captures both sides of Evil Beaver’s coin fluidly. One of the best aspects of Lick It! is that even within the limitations of a two-instrument act, the songs vary enough to make the album full of distinctive tracks. The range between “Cherry Master” and “The Ballad of Sand D. Martino Pt. 1” is pretty incredible, calling to mind the differences between other bass-heavy bands such as Primus on the faster tunes and Morphine on the slower ones.
Evil Beaver deserves the nod that it has received from the Chicago music community in the last year. Hopefully it will be enough to break the band into a larger national audience. The world needs women like this, whose challenge to stereotypes proves that the same stereotypes have yet to be overcome. And we need more musicians who realize that the bass is a guitar and can be played like one, not like some wussy instrument that untalented guitarists get stuck with. Get on board now, familiarize yourself with Evie and Laura Ann while they’re still underground, and you too can say that you licked it first.