Album Review: Deap Vally – Sistrionix

In the minefield that is the contemporary popular music scene, a must have quality for bands these days is balls. MASSIVE balls. You have the have the balls to put yourselves ‘out there’ and be vulnerable and open to criticism; balls are something these ladies have in spades. Without… y’know, ACTUALLY having balls.

Big balls, but they can't spell for shit.

Big balls, but they can’t spell for shit.

Deap Vally are a two piece all-female hard rock band hailing from LA whose line-up consists of lead vocalist/guitarist Lindsey Troy and drummer/backup vocalist Julie Edwards. Old school hard rock fans would be all like “Wh… is that it?” and actually, duos like these are all the more common these days with the visible embracing of decent octave pedals for guitar – examples include Royal Blood and newcomers The Graveltones – which should make Orange Goblin’s bassist shiver in his shoes. Probably why the old school hard rock fans are called ‘old school’. Embrace the new or fuck off back to Jimmy Paige.

With their truly unique formula of ‘Fuck you’ hard rock draped raucously across their June 2013 album Sistrionix, Deap Vally set about systematically dismantling the traditional western view of femininity from both ends of the age-group spectrum. Wearing the concept so widely known in youth culture proudly on it’s shoulders, Walk of Shame challenges the very principles behind its title subject while Lies lifts them off the ‘gentle, submissive woman’ pedestal so commonly held sacred by the older generations. Edwards has commented in the past that actually, they don’t exactly know what sort of image of femininity they’re putting across, they’re just doing their thing. ‘Course. You see what they mean though. Is it sexy? Is it scary? Whatever the ratios, it’s definitely awesome.

The opening track End Of The World actually conducts itself in the opposite theme to the rest of the album in that it preaches peace and love, whereas the remaining tracklist (lovely as it is) is far from peaceful. Rightly so. Its lyrics cry “Hate is a parasite/Yes, hate will eat us alive” accompanied by a solid, marching riff comparable to Nico Vega’s Beast, carrying the same intensity, playing like a rallying cry. Similarly on most of the tracks, Troy’s guitar plays more like a bass with less focus on chords or melodics and a clear emphasis on finding a punchy riff to blow your brain out of your arse with.

Gonna Make My Own Money follows more of a rock n roll pace, with grounded statements in the lyrics broken up by descending guitar motifs and some pretty sick fills underneath it all courtesy of the arms of Julie Edwards. This is where, for me, the drumming in the album comes into it’s own. Edwards’ command of rhythm and timing on this track is stark and utter, a feat which will no doubt be desired by many a drummer who cares to listen.

While Six Feet Under/Spiritual is a very notable step down in pace and intensity, one criticism I would have about the album is the lack of a consistently downbeat track or ‘slow song’. Maybe I’m just a bit conventional, but I think it shows a slight lack of versatility when artists can’t just take a step back and tone it down once in a while without breaking into a crazy, cymbal-driven fuckfest breakdown. Having said that, Troy and Edwards know what they’re trying to achieve with this album and just because they have trouble slowing down, doesn’t mean they’re completely incapable of it. You just wouldn’t want to trawl through this album with a hangover. Trust.

What strikes me about Sistrionix is that it isn’t complex. Someone might argue that actually, it doesn’t sound like a whole lot of thought has gone into it; but that’s why Deap Vally’s sound is so effective. The genre doesn’t demand the album to be over-thought or riddled with massively complicated and drawn out symphonic sections to get it’s message across. To me, it simply says “The key to life is very simple. Don’t be a dick and have some fun.”

Words by Matt Gibbons

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