While the ‘90s garage revival around the Detroit area gave rise to a slew of excellent groups who went on to achieve international success, there are just as many outstanding Michigan bands that remained under the radar for the majority of music fans. The Gore Gore Girls are one such act. Named after the last blood-drenched, grindhouse spectacle to be directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis, “the Godfather of Gore”, in 1972 , and with a passion for sexy, ‘60s Go-Go fashion, this all-female (with the exception of original drummer Jeff Klein) band has perhaps been to easily dismissed as a mere “novelty act”.
Certainly, like the Cramps’, whom the Gore Gore Girls supported on tour in 2005, their image is married to the music and the music to the image, or, as Lux Interior put it, the “Gore Gore Girls are the Ronettes with guitars.” Then again, maybe the lack of commercial success had something to do with the constant changes in line-up which, since the band’s formation in1997, resembled a Go-Go-Girl carousel at times. It’s more likely, however, to do with the same problem that the Detroit Cobras (Cobras and Reigning Sound bassist Carole Anne Schumacher rounds out the line-up here) suffered from for so long—an inability to fully capture their explosive live performances on record. Not that the Gore Gore Girls’ full-length, garage-punk debut in 2000 Strange Girls, or their more soulful follow-up in 2002 on the Get Hip label Up All Night are bad, far from it, they just lack that certain spark which frequently ignites their onstage appearances.
Well, things are set to change for founding member and guitarist/singer Amy Surdu a.k.a. Amy Gore, lead guitarist Marlene “the Hammer” Hammerle and drummer Nicky Styxx because people are finally going to Get the Gore. As Surdu succinctly shouts out on the glorious garage-punk thrash-athon “Loaded Heart” (initially released in 2004 along with five other cuts here on the currently hard-to-find EP 7X4), “it’s like dynamite in a mine shaft.” Really, it’s a blast!
Recorded at Jim Diamond’s local studio Ghetto Recorders, scene of past White Stripes sessions (before court proceedings between Diamond and Jack White stopped any further collaborations), and also produced by the former Dirtbomb, this debut release for Bloodshot Records is an excellent hybrid of Sonics style-garage-raunch and ‘60s girl-group sass that blends lacerating Gretch guitar workouts, infectious handclap rhythms and sweet ‘n’ sour harmonies to great effect.
Opener “Fox in a Box” encapsulates all of the above in a frenzied two-minute garage stomper, while the feral “Pleasure Unit”, co-written with Runaways Svengali and legendary producer Kim Fowley, signals the sleazy, rock ‘n’ roll detour up ahead. When Surdu’s sultry voice growls “Deep down inside I’m a selfish witch / One half tomboy and one half bitch”, you come to realise that these girls won’t just break your heart, they’ll rip it out of your chest and stomp on it. Most likely to crunching guitars and a danceable beat.
And there are plenty of opportunities on this record to party your heart out—from the gently swirling, sitar-laced psychedelia of “Where Evil Grows”, a cover of an obscure number from late ‘60s Canadian group the Poppy Family, and the equally obscure but frenetic version of Texas psych band the Lavender Hour’s “So Sophisticated”, with added sound bite intro from Lewis’s classic “The Wizard of Gore”, to the better known Crystals and/or Dixie Cups recording “All Grown Up”, penned by Brill Building songsmiths Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and a young Phil Spector, that remains faithful to its girl-group origins while adding a shimmy-inducing, Gretch wall of sound replete with handclaps. But if truly raucous is what you want then that’s what you’ll get with the Girls offering up original garage-punk nuggets such as the six-string mayhem of “Voodoo Doll” and “Casino”, while the closing instrumental number “Hammer Stomp” will nail your arse to the wall.
This is a 38-minute, mini-masterpiece of garage-punk bravado that allows the heady sound of the Gore Gore Girls to not so gently bleed into your ears. Once heard, never to be forgotten. In fact, the album even comes with its own cautionary sticker of sorts written by Lewis, which states: “To appreciate this music, you have to have a streak of wildness, a fierce independence of spirit, and an absolute belief in the strange, the unpredictable, the offbeat, and even the generally unacceptable.” You have been warned.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. We need your help to keep PopMatters strong and growing. Thank you.