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Doll Fight!, Queen City Riot Grrrl 

Album Review

click to enlarge album-reviews-dollfight_.jpg

(Self-released, digital download)

Although Burlington has its fair share of punk and hardcore bands advocating activism, the Queen City doesn’t see much rioting. Fear not, idle anarchists. On Queen City Riot Grrrl, Burlington’s fem-punks Doll Fight! deploy enough sonic weaponry — not to mention classically styled punk rock — to make you want to handcraft a Molotov cocktail.

Queen City Riot Grrrl is Doll Fight!’s first full-length album and, since they recently broke up, it is their last. It is also lo-fi, in your face, pissed off and to the point. It is at times unbearable. But, especially given the irascible nature of their earlier EPs, that may have been the band’s intention.

DF! encapsulate many styles, often borrowing song structures from Black Flag and occasionally even channeling the delicate vocal nature of the Breeders. Fittingly, the album starts out with a 1980s-styled punk anthem, “All I Wanted.” Growling bass, heavily distorted guitar and carefully delivered vocals create an old-school feel.

That sensibility continues on “If I Had a Hammer,” which, lyrically, is a great ode to feminism. Bassist and vocalist Kelly Riel hits the intensity of Amy Miret of Nausea in her guttural delivery, minus the tight thrash style. Although hard to digest, it’s a fun song and a great piece of poetry. Riel’s bass tone, here and throughout Queen City Riot Grrrl, is as dirty and midrange-y as one would expect from any decent punk-rock album.

“I Fight Back” features guitarist Christine Mathias on lead vocals. She is clearly fed up with societal norms, howling, “I got your message loud and clear / You’re the one in power here / I got my taste of freedom / I don’t give up so easily / Is this all you got?” Mathias isn’t afraid of the microphone and attacks it with heat. It may not be innovative, but she fearlessly crosses a political line very few musicians venture past. Mathias prospers with sheer attitude.

“Trap!” and “Swarm” exemplify DF!’s more aggressive side and highlight the band’s now-dormant promise. In particular, they show what drummer Jane Boxall is made of. She locks the band in, fueling the trio with her intensity and original and aggressive rhythms. She catches the listener off guard with unique, unexpected drum parts. The classically trained Boxall flourishes in the slapdash garage sound.

“Sleep Tonight” is a fitting, ballad-y closer. It’s also the only song that breaks three minutes. Somehow both sporadic and repetitive, it offers some interesting guitar hooks and reminds us of Doll Fight!’s ability to mix things up.

Queen City Riot Grrrl is haphazard, to say the least. The song structure is erratic and the vocals at times are hard to grip. But cohesion is not the point here. It’s about a personal, fearless declaration. And on that score, Doll Fight! easily succeed.

Queen City Riot Grrrl by Doll Fight! is available at dollfight.bandcamp.com.

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