(2014 Uvulittle )
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Indie rock folklore chronicles that everyone who heard the Velvet Underground went home and started a band. While garage rock may have sprouted out of even earlier forms of surf rock and R&B (the Surfers, the Platters, Danny & the Juniors, Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, etc), Madison’s Ladyscissors make a strong case that the VU formula doesn’t have to be all chaos and fuzz boxes. Given the all-female vocal line, references can be made to the Shangri-las, Crystals, Ronettes and Martha & The Vandellas.
The quintet (Stephanie Rearick – drums and vocals; Lorrie Hurckes – guitar and vocals; Brent George – guitar; Anne Bull – bass and vocals) blend those late-Fifties-style vocal elements and early-Sixties instrumental references, protecting the ethos of the not-too-studied brand of rock musician that delivers it straight from the gut while spiking the punch with a dose of punk raunchiness. As the name might suggest, Ladyscissors keeps the music fun and the production decidedly real.
It’s hard to imagine that this debut full-length contains any overdubs as it does, indeed, sound like it was recorded in a garage or similar small room, the take with the best feel being chosen, warts and all. The recording was produced by Rearick’s personal and Uvulittle Records mate Jon Hain and is a perfect addition to the local label’s catalog while remaining true to the Madison tradition of music makers possessing honesty, integrity and no small measure of quirk.
There are direct references to the doo-wop style of vocals. Take the intro to the catchy Rearick/George composition “Crackerjack,” which quotes the “dum-diddy-doo-dum-dum” phrase from “Breaking Up is Hard to Do.” The song seems to make a plea for going back to simpler times while asking “What’s the matter with hypocrisy? / What’s the matter with authority?” In Rearick’s inimitable style she also rhymes “That’s a little bit of history” with “That’s a little bit of hagiography.”
“Bubblegum,” one of the strongest tracks, manages to put a modern take on the sugary melody while the vocal instrumental middle section reveals Ladyscissors’ harmonizing abilities.
“Red/Blue” exposes a more introspective side. Here lies the recording’s best lyrics, poetic and contemplative. “Wasting Time” borrows heavily from Bowie’s “Space Oddity” before moving into a nearly choral vocal section and a nearly comatose reflection on time. The toy glockenspiel is particularly effective.
Rearick is clearly the engine behind a lot of the material but guitarist Lorrie Huckes chimes in with a few spiky originals of her own. Her contributions are especially playful and more relationship-driven.
There are a few hip cover tunes that get the Ladyscissors treatment as well. The Violent Femme’s “Please Do Not Go” and Talking Heads’ “Don’t Worry About the Government” both the get the retro treatment. Perhaps the most surprising result is the group’s choice of Art Paul Schlosser’s “The World Isn’t Going to End Instantly.” The delayed guitar, nearly free-form rhythm and neurotic vocal delivery effectively convey the feeling of resignation. The choruses are filled out vocally with backups from Monica Monica, Mary Bue, Ali Dwyer and Sara Cotton Butler. Andy Ewen also makes a guest appearance on guitar.
Ladyscissors isn’t where you come to find musical perfection. Like a pinking shears it will be difficult to cut straight lines. I’ll bet this is one fun band in a live setting, however, and that is where most musicians leave a lasting impression. Especially the Madison variety, many of whom are fearless in their artistry and expression, a trait that makes the city and its legion of independent artists so valuable.