BattleaXXX drops Adequate, ‘sasscore’ debut album

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ALBANY — The debut from Albany all-female rock band BattleaXXX, Adequate, is anything but unimpressive.  It will surprise, shock and delight you; the sassy, catchy tunes and over-the-top clever lyrics will follow you for days after, making you come back again and again…

Labelling themselves both ‘clitter rock’ and ‘sasscore,’ BattleaXXX has created an undeniably original blend of campy ironic blues and alternative rock.  The precedents I hear in its sound other than the obvious Bikini Kill and Sleater Kinney are the Pixies, and Pussy Galore/Jon Spencer/Cramps style wailing and skronkin; the mute palming of Fugazi, the alternative rock basslines of the Breeders/Pixies, drum beats and fills the perfect backing for a post-alternative fuzz rock band (whatever the hell that is).  Though as BattleaXXX claims it is ‘unapologetic hard rawk’ and posts photos of glam metal bands behind it while playing, it could’ve learned its chops from anyone from Van Halen to Deep Purple. The solid rhythm section of Brook Degener on skins and Megan Prokorym on bass guitar sets and complements the perfect mood for frontwoman Martha Moscowitz’s fantastic ultra-fuzz guitar work and snarkier than snarky vocals (both singing and all kinds of funny screeches and sarcastic giggles).

Lead track “Aquarobic” pulls you right in with a rolling bassline and drumbeat, followed by an enormously satisfying post-grunge riff, fuzz squealing everywhere.  Moscowitz’s original, sarcastic and snarky as hell vocals alternate between blues singing and alternative rock squealing.

The rest of the songs on the album follow suit in a similar vein, with Moscowitz dominating the spotlight on the majority of tracks. Degener and Prokorym are a fantastic basic rhythm section, not only keeping the rhythm going but adding fills and flair whenever there’s an opportunity like, say, no vocals are going or a guitar solo’s being played.  But the real rockstar is Moscowitz, with her post-blues dirty guitar sounds, baroque vocal performances and always provocative lyrics.  

Case in point: “Sexbot Apocalypse,” a song about a robot that sexually performs in a variety of ways — “no regular man can do all this.” Or “Amazoniac;” a conversational piece that’s practically a standup comedian bit lamenting the banality of modern mail order capitalism and how it oughta come on Sunday or, better yet, right away as soon as she orders it (includes belching, laughing and baby sounds anti-intellectual groaning).  While similar to the loud and crotchety vocal stylings of Frank Black, Moscowitz takes it to the next level with lo-fi off-key squealing to drive home her point of absolute boredom and exhaustion with the world at hand.

“Top Shelf Naughty,” clearly a single, is a catchy rocker with a theme similar to Sleater Kinney’s “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” both reveling in the baseness of top-shelf materialism and mocking its ultimate scummy hollowness.

Nor does the band ply only in 90s riot grrrl or alternative rock; “Party in the Woods” is like a tripped out Black Sabbath tune taken over by the Stooges.  A mock ’70s style party song about the stupid kind of teenage party where “there’s gonna be some nudity” and “There’s gonna be”… “chips”?  The sense of humor may not be clear to everyone, but it’s clear that the band using it and when it lands, it’s funny as hell.  

The album ends with a reprise of the short back and forth conversation between Moscowitz and Prokorym (side note: should I be saying Martha and Megan? That sounds sexist. When you talk about guys in bands, you don’t even think about it; it’s like a football team and you just use last names.  It’s sad that it takes such a provocative record by such talented women just to expose a few of a male rock critics’ go-to’s, prejudices and comfort levels with being challenged that were there all along but completely overlooked as a result of the fact that pretty much every band I review is like 75% dudes) over laptop confirmation click to door consumerism, going back and forth between our needs for material convenience and our low-level concern about the international injustice of capitalism as a terrorizing force for workers everywhere.  It’s actually really fuckin’ funny, not in an “lol” way, but in a “that’s really clever and who would’ve thought to put something like that in that way in a song and wtf not? haha that’s awesome” funny. 

This jeeringly satirical portrait of modern consumerism and sexuality in the late corporate capitalist world is not for those that like their rock “classic” and full of see-through metaphors for sex and drugs.  It’s for people that like jokes that go way too far, as in it’s not funny until someone gets hurt.  And then you push over and start kicking the person that gets hurt because then it’s even funnier. 

BattleaXXX hits you over the head with their punk grrrrl but equally macho hard ‘rawk’ attitudes, musicianship and ironic intellectual mockery of everyday life in the stupid world we didn’t ask to be born into.  A real original, entertaining and fearless treat. 

-Wendell Wright

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