To be gauche is to be socially awkward, unsophisticated, an embarrassment. It is also to put oneself out there forcefully anyway and without apology. For their debut record, A People’s History of Gauche, the Washington D.C. band presents all of these things in a maddeningly delightful and refreshing 36 minutes.
A People’s History of Gauche introduces a band that evokes the best of DIY post-punk from the past (think the Slits and Raincoats meet the B-52s) but translates it all to now in a furious, danceable stew. This is music that refuses to be passive and that demands motion, effectively capturing a spastic, energetic live band on record.
Gauche is Jason P Barnett, Adrienne CN Berry, Mary Jane Regalado, Pearie Sol, and Daniele Yandel, all of whom have served time in other bands but merge together seamlessly into this collective. While the primary aesthetic is joyful and dance-inducing, Gauche’s lyrics reflect our troubling times. This is not escapist music; in fact, one of the album’s strengths is the energy the band generates from their anger and the directness of their perspective.
“Cycles” attacks the inhumanity and inanities of our news cycle: “reading all about it” Regalado sings, “Have they found the bodies / What about their mothers?” Meanwhile, “Pay Day” offers up the reality faced by so many in our allegedly improving (for who?) economy: “I know I can’t survive like this!” in a cathartic, danceable package. The sentiment is amplified in “Running”: “I’m running out of options / And I’m tired of feeling empty-handed.”
In “History”, an album highlight, Regalado reflects upon a historical narrative that privileges male voices and often erases women’s contributions, particularly in the sciences, her voice expresses a century of female frustration as she brays “It wasn’t him / It was ME! / It was MEEEE!” The rawness in her voice is both convincing and beautiful.
Like impolite guests who may or may not have been formally invited to the party, they make an impactful entrance that guarantees people will be talking long after the final wine stain gets washed out of the good linens. A People’s History of Gauche is an uplifting and thoughtful album amidst its ample dance grooves.