Claws retracted, bite still sharp
Released in 2002, The Rogers Sisters’ debut album Purely Evil was full of stutter-punk manifestos like “I Dig A Hole” and “Zero Point”. The band—sisters Jennifer and Laura Rogers, playing guitar and drums respectively, with Miyuki Furtado on bass—spat out short, sharp, staccato songs. These seemed like the kind of tunes you’d make with a machine gun; the thump of the bass standing in for recoil, the sung-spoke lyrics and snare shot drumming punching bullet holes in the wall. Think Delta 5 and B-52s and Gang of Four, only more abrupt, more jittery, more adrenaline charged. It was brutal. It was danceable. It was good.
Now, four years later, with the brief, bass-driven Three Fingers intervening, The Rogers Sisters have coated their barbed wire rhythms with girl-pop candy and stretched punk into drone. It’s still fairly brutal, still danceable, and still undeniably good—but more complicated this time. It’s easier and more dangerous, prettier and less calculable than their earlier work.
Stripped-down cuts like “Why Won’t You” still put a stark and heavy four on the floor, but there are squalls of feedback and freewheeling guitar solos billowing out of the architecture. “Never Learn to Cry” starts out with choked off guitar and distant snare shots, a minimalist new wave vibe that will remind you of The GoGos “This Town Is Our Town”. A girl-group aura intensifies when the vocals come in, high and sweet and fluid, no barbed wire showing. Still, there’s a knife-sharp break late in the song, the whole thing cutting back to just snare and expectations, that shows The Rogers Sisters haven’t sacrificed edge for prettiness. They do it once more in, “The Undecided”, a whisper-and-drums break that builds unbearable tension with just the words, “No don’t get excited / It’s you undecided” over and over again.
The Rogers Sisters caught some flak with Purely Evil for its politicized cover image: an altered photo of Dubya. They’re back in the fray with Invisible Deck, though more through the lyrics than cover art, this time. The B-52-ish “The Light” spits venom and post-attack America with words like “Terror tamed the nonbeliever / Murder makes us more than hungry / Terror brought the world to order / Lecherous heathens had to free us” while “Money Matters” takes on materialism. “The Conversation”, though it references the Gene Hackman movie, pulses with ripped-from-the-headlines unease. Even sweetly droning “Your Littlest World” is about being paralyzed by fear, its hypnotic bass-and-drum founded groove encircling a story about paranoia.
The album’s second half is its best, starting with “The Clock”‘s spiky bass-driven call and response. “The Undecided”, which follows, is a lurching, squawking triumph, all off-kilter strut and dark cheerleader rants. There’s a wonderful burst of fuzzed guitar mid-way, then that dramatic whispered cutback. “The Conversation”, released before as a 7 inch, is studded with fractured space, funk and punk and no wave jammed into one giant skittering party. There’s a strong whiff of B-52s in the stop-start rhythms and sung-chanted lyrics of bass player Miyuki Furtado.
The disc closes with its longest cut, the eight-minute-plus epic “Sooner or Later”, which builds from a drum beat and single, feedback-distorted guitar note into a rolling freight train of ominous intent. Repetitive, hypnotic, weighted with menace, criss-crossed with descanting vocals, the cut has the crazy internal logic of a Fall song, and it remains intense right to the end.
Invisible Deck is what you like to see from a still-developing band—a work that extends the band’s range without sacrificing what made it good in the first place.