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Wednesday, July 11, 2007 07:59 am

The feminine mystique

Gore Gore Girls got gams and Gretsches!

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The Gore Gore Girls Get the Gore (Bloodshot)
Untitled Document Gretsches and gams, gams and Gretsches. That’s the Gore Gore Girls’ bag, and if it’s not yours, well, you can’t say you weren’t warned. The cover of the Detroit quartet’s new CD, Get the Gore, says it all: two curvy lower limbs, set off to pornalicious perfection in stiletto do-me boots, and one curvy vintage Gretsch guitar, equipped with a Bigsby tremolo bar and eagle-embossed pick guard. The iconography isn’t subtle, but it’s effective. The Gore Gore Girls are, to swipe a term coined by rad-fem blogger Twisty Faster, empowerful. They’re doing it for themselves in their vinyl microminis. They’re beating the boys at their own game while the boys beat, uh, other stuff. It’s all depressingly consistent with the new bikini-waxing, cleavage-flaunting, Suicide Girls-sanctioned school of feminism, whose naïve adherents labor under the delusion that they’re sex-positive free agents subverting the patriarchy by — and this is the tricky part, the undoing of many a starry-eyed pole dancer — reinscribing its core values. See, all you have to do is invert the paradigm (chicks on top!), and voilà: You’re no longer just another slab of helpless meat; you’re a fully emancipated hamburger patty, ready to leap onto the grill unassisted. You go-go, Gore Gore Girls!
Yeah, I know: It’s unfair to blame the Gore Gore Girls for failing to dismantle the patriarchy when they just want to have fun, and, given their ravenous appetite for misogyny-marinated retro rawk, a certain amount of cognitive dissonance seems inevitable. The band — which consists of guitarist/singer and principal songwriter Amy Surdu (a.k.a. Amy Gore), lead guitarist Marlene “Hammer” Hammerle, bassist Carol Anne Schumacher (also of the Detroit Cobras), and drummer Nicky Styxx — is named after a movie by grindhouse auteur Herschell Gordon Lewis. One of the songs on the album was co-written by notorious hustler/hack, Runaways Svengali, and alleged woman-hater Kim Fowley. This all jibes nicely with the band’s predilection for ’60s garage-punk and girl-group tropes; between the raunchy self-assertion of the former and the melodramatic self-immolation of the latter, there’s not much room for advanced gender studies.
In light of these philosophical and conceptual shortcomings, all that remains is to judge the Gore Gore Girls on the merits of their music. Extricating the raw product from the hyperstylized package isn’t easy — image is a big part of the Gore Gore Girls’ mystique, as it is for many of their peers, not excluding the ones with Y chromosomes. Still, it’s fair to ask whether anyone would care about this album if it weren’t the handiwork of four hot young women. The answer, it pains me to say, is probably no.
That said, Get the Gore isn’t an all-out suckfest. The playing, especially Surdu’s and Hammerle’s dueling guitars, is consistently competent, if rarely compelling. Surdu doesn’t have a wide range or infallible pitch, but her gutsy growl gets the job done, most notably on straightforward garage rave-ups “Fox in a Box” and “Don’t Cry,” when it blossoms into a full-blown bellow. Oddball instrumental flourishes, such as the groovy sitar on the psych-pop obscurity “Where Evil Grows,” lend a bit of flair to the standard-issue dirt-rock formula. Peppy handclaps break up the requisite fuzztone sludge; sassy call-and-response backing vocals sweeten the Ellie Greenwich/Jeff Barry/Phil Spector gem “All Grown Up” and Surdu’s deeply goofy but undeniably catchy “Sweet Potato.” But the sad fact is, every midsize town in America has at least a couple of bands that sound like the Gore Gore Girls. Unfortunately for them, they don’t look as good in miniskirts.  
Contact René Spencer Saller at rssaller@core.com.
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