Monday, January 18, 2010

The Donnas- self-titled (Super*Teem! Records, 1997)

Having made for themselves a long and highly successful career out of reviving the tried-and-true stylings of KISS and the Crue, The Donnas have almost made us forget about their brief role as the nubile faces of Darin Raffaelli’s girl group aspirations. In fact, there is a large percentage of the band’s current fan base that would probably have the bad taste to not even like the first Donnas album. Written, produced, and perhaps even largely performed by Raffaelli, The Donnas was the most talked-about punk rock LP of 1997, and probably rates as the greatest Ramones rip-off album ever issued.

The concept was simple yet brilliant: re-do the first Ramones LP as if it had been written for The Shangri-Las, and have the guy from Supercharger record it on a basement four track. This magical convergence of all things awesome (‘90s No Cal garage punk, ‘60s girl groups, and of course, The Ramones) was too true to miss, and this semi-mythical band came off as the baddest of bad-ass girl gangs. You couldn’t help wanting it to be real - that these four gals really were ruling school at Palo Alto Senior High in their matching black t-shirts - huffing inhalants, smoking cheeba, and stealing other girls’ boyfriends, sometimes by violent means. Girls wanted to be them, and guys wanted to fuck them (it was the bass player I was after). Yet novelty was only a small part of the equation. Raffaelli, a premiere rock n’ roll tunesmith (Shame on you if you don't own any Supercharger music!), penned an incredible batch of songs for his jailbait proteges. And lead singer Brett “Donna A.” Anderson delivered the material with a just-right mix of libidinous gusto and teenage boredom. 13 years after this album’s release, songs like “Let’s Go Mano!”, “Get Rid of that Girl”, and “Huff All Night” are as ultra-fun and irresistible as ever, buoyed by delightfully primitive three-chord riffing and delinquent-cheerleader backing vocals. And as a textbook slice of girl group greatness, “I’m Gonna Make Him Mine (Tonight)” genuinely ranks right up there with the very best offerings of Spector or Morton.

Vaulted to underground fame thanks to this release, The Donnas signed to Lookout! Records and freely indulged their fondness for throwback metal. The rest is history, and for better or worse the “real” Donnas were an entirely different group from the one Raffaelli immortalized on wax (as they’ve shown us time and time again, they really can play!). But so what? The band liked these old tunes well enough to re-record a few of them for their recent best-of collection, so it’s not like they’re running from the legacy. And whether you consider it a true Donnas album or a mainly a Darin Raffaelli solo project, The Donnas is sheer rock n’ roll perfection.

-Josh Rutledge

1 comment:

gunther said...

I dug The Electrocutes' version of that REO Speedwagon song. Think it was in the movie "Drive Me Crazy." Did you know that The Donnas teamed up with Pearcy for a take of "Round And Round"? It's on one of his solo discs.