Is it too much of a stretch to say that girl-garage is at a crossroads? The Donnas dropped the “we’re-all-named-Donna” shtick for their most recent release, Gold Medal, and seem hell bent on polishing their “Donna-ness” out of existence in the studio. Sahara Hotnights fairly approximated the ‘70s street punk of the Runaways on 2002’s Jennie Bomb, but traded that stance in for new wave licks on this year’s Kiss and Tell. Admittedly, Kiss and Tell is one of 2004’s better albums (to these ears, at least), but where can one turn nowadays for the occasional dose of sneered-lip girl-garage? Enter Phoenix, AZ’s Les Hell on Heels, who on their self-titled debut prove they know exactly what a girl-garage band is supposed to look like, sound like, and sing about.
The songs on Les Hell on Heels themselves were forged in the garage rock crucible dozens of years ago—all rumbling rhythm section (bassist Chela LaRue and drummer Kristin Machynski), scuffed-up, fuzzed-out guitar (Katie Rose), and snarling vocals and lyrics (Paula Monarch), with only two songs cracking the three-minute barrier and the eleven-song album not even a half-hour long. The garage scene is littered with forgotten bands—both male and female—who adhered to the above formula with varying degrees of success. What gets Les Hell on Heels noticed, though, is their attitude.
The liner notes eschew lyrics and band thank-yous in favor of photos of the individual band members all vamped up in poses that seem to say “fuck me” and “go fuck yourself” in equal measure. Come to think of it, these notions pretty much sum up the band’s lyrics. The album’s eleven songs leave behind a trail of eleven dazed men. The girls are on the hunt for some guys (“Got What You Need”, the Mr. Right-Now ode “He’s Alright”), while kicking the rest to the curb (“Broke Down Love”, where Monarch decides she’ll take a guy who’s worn out his welcome “back to the junkyard, smash him and use him for parts”; the surf-rockish “Waste of Love”; the “reject lover” of “Pretender”). These ladies are on the prowl.
Les Hell on Heels don’t say anything that hasn’t been said countless times over the past 30 years, but nevertheless it’s good to hear these four ladies bringing a sense of gum-snapping female recklessness back to the garage.
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. Thanks everyone.