Tomboy — Sweetie


It’s here! TOMBOY‘s debut album Sweetie is to be released in just two days by Ride the Snake Records. If you are yet to come across the band (well, firstly, my heart goes out to you), then fear not for the coming months are sure to bring exciting things their way following this Tuesday’s album release.

There are musical groups that constantly need to be hyped—usually because their music obfuscates local show-goers or only sparks tentative interest among the crowd. Such limelight requires continuous maintenance or it inevitably grows dim.

On the other hand, certain bands organically draw well-deserved recognition through energetic, passionate, and, most importantly, meaningful musical performance. And I think that was a big part of riot grrrl’s appeal in the first place, at least upon the subculture’s emergence in the early ’90s.

I must say, Tomboy is without a doubt such a band that requires no hype, no introduction, no context. Everything you need to know blares through songs like “Sweetie” and “Anthem.”  Madeline’s vocal performances bring an excitable degree of feminine angst, rarely found outside of the Pacific Northwest. It’s really her phrasing, her dulled intonation that frequently devolves into high-pitched shrieks of fury, which inspires the same outrage in Tomboy’s listeners. Take, for instance, the album’s namesake track, “Sweetie,”: it commodifies lust as “$3.99 / All sugar and spice,” presumably treating sexual greed as a sort of pie-eating, gluttonous force that all too often lacks restraint and disregards social boundaries. She sternly chants, “Don’t you think I’m fun? Don’t you think I’m nice? But don’t fucking touch me, let me give you some advice,” and indeed the refrain could not be repeated enough! This was another track backed by Will Killingsworth (aka Will Kill) who mastered their 2013 single.

In general the album is heavier than anything you’d find on Bratmobile’s Pottymouth (1993) and follows the same choppy dynamic shifts you might find in early post-punk records by LiLiPUT. However, the up-beat roar of the Tomboy gang, as well as their colorful production, offers a more enriched quality to each and every statement on Sweetie. There’s a conspicuous treatment of delay on Ali’s guitar lines, but they’re kept in check by Meghan’s driving bass and Hanna’s firmly planted rhythm sections. What’s more, the cacophony of echoes that diffuses across the album is generally artfully employed—most effectively in the track “Bethany” as Madeline’s obsessive phrase “I’m not crazy / You make me feel” meanders into itself over and over and over again.

Tracks like “Emma” and “Blue” veer on the side of delicate, still fitting with the overall rhythm of the album—albeit as more reflective pieces concerning past/present/future romantic struggles. The former of the two songs, “Emma,” is an immediate favorite of mine from the record, for it breaks from the Tomboy’s typically energetic and forceful narrative. The song is written by guitarist Hanna who offers a lackadaisical charm through darker themes and gorgeously understated melodies. The chorus brings her grungy anguish to the forefront with a four-part harmony: “You got what you wanted / You got what you deserved.” It’s the closest thing to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young I’ve heard on any riot grrrl record to date. Hanna also takes over Madeline’s role as drummer in the song “I’m In The Fucking Band,” which usually queues Madeline to provoke the crowd as she moves upfront, urging them to dig their heels into a song demanding free-form expression and reproaching male egotism. It truly does the legacy of artists like Amelia Fletcher and Allison Wolfe justice!

You can buy the record at Ride the Snake‘s store, but in the meantime it is streaming on The Le Sigh for your listening pleasure.

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