Music

The Donnas: Gold Medal

Adam Williams

The Donnas

Gold Medal

Label: Atlantic
US Release Date: 2004-10-26
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

When the Donnas crashed the party in 2002 with their major label debut, Spend the Night, a handful of questions circled above the band: Were they just another preening girl group? Was this another style over substance ruse? Would they be the flavor of the moment, vanishing as quickly as they appeared? Although the album went on to successfully dispel all doubts about the Donnas' legitimacy as it was nothing less than wonderfully crafted pop infused fun, the band's future became clouded by yet more uncertainty. Could the promise of Spend the Night be duplicated? What of the sophomore slump? With the release of Gold Medal, the Donnas have leveled the competition, definitively proving that they can play, and stay, in the big leagues.

Evaluated simply in musical terms, Gold Medal is a strong second outing. The songs are still catchy and brisk, but the album's underlying sound is far removed from its bubbly predecessor. Everything about the new tracks has a heavier organic feel, from the polished confidence of Brett Anderson's vocals, to the rhythmic precision of Maya Ford's bass and Torry Castellano's strafing drum beats. More noticeable however, is the progression of Allison Robertson as a guitarist, as she anchors the album with muscular riffs throughout. Face it folks, these gals can flat out rock...

The album also showcases the band's sense of exploration and willingness to deviate from the curve. It would have been easy to stay with a formulaic blueprint in recording the follow-up to Spend the Night, but instead, Gold Medal incorporates a broad spectrum of influences, and allows the Donnas to refine their sonic image. From the opening crunchy twang of "I Don't Want to Know", the album traverses a variety of contrasting musical paths; the Cult-esque "Fall Behind Me", the jaunty jug band romp of "The Gold Medal", the somberly metallic "Don't Break Me Down" and "Revolver". Yet as the tracks ebb and flow, they all resonate around one common thread: Robertson's distinctive fret work. Harnessing a powerful '70s orientation, Robertson boasts a signature sound reminiscent of early Ace Frehley, one that will define her playing long into the future. It is this component of the band's attack that confirms its stature as a premiere act.

The most striking aspect of Gold Medal is the band's remarkable maturation process over the past two years. The Donnas have moved forward from the fun-loving "girls chasing boys" aesthetic, and are now using their creative latitude to build more sophisticated material. Oh, they're still fun to listen to, but they've grown into a veteran group in the space of two major label records, as Gold Medal proudly shows.

It is interesting to look back and chart the Donnas' ascension to the forefront of the latest musical renaissance. Earning their reputation on the indie circuit, then riding the crest of the pop wave started by the White Stripes, the Donnas displayed more talent and staying power than the majority of their contemporaries. Thus, while most of those acts have taken up residency in the "Where Are They Now File?" the Donnas have capitalized on the success of Spend the Night, with an impressive follow-up album, the direction of which bodes extremely well for the future, as it indicates the next studio recording will be even more evolved than the previous two.

How satisfying is Gold Medal? Suffice it to say that as the year winds down, the album has immediately staked out its claim on the "Best of 2004" list.

Good news indeed, as the Donnas look to be around making great music for some time...


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Music

Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.

Music

IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.

Music

Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.

Film

NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.

Music

The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.