In an era where two girls are more readily associated with ‘one cup’ than dirty, bass-driven stomprock, Deap Vally have exploded out of California with a sound that is always going to capture the attention of anyone who wraps their ears around it. How you adjudicate it, though, is another matter. Sistrionix is so straight-up and unabashed that questions over authenticity will undoubtedly surface. The guitar-drums duo motif has been done before, and the art has indeed been mastered by the likes of The Black Keys and The White Stripes. The former don’t sound nearly as stripped down as they did in the Thickfreakness years, but the blueprint still remains in the same postcode. Whether the skepticism and negativity towards the formula of Sistrionix outweighs the craving for red meat, however, is another matter, because let’s face it; it’s always refreshing to hear some pent-up, no-holds-barred rock ‘n’ roll, and Deap Vally are pretty good at it.
First things first: it’s definitely worth noting that this pair met at a crochet class. How Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards managed to incorporate their thirst for scuzzed out riffs and beating a drum kit to within an inch of its life, all over a civilized needlework session, is a befuddler in itself. These girls look naughty; they have a dress sense that would give their fathers a coronary, are not afraid to broadcast their misdemeanors, and quite frankly look as though they might have been asked not to return to crochet class…
So let’s get onto the music itself. Opening track End of the World only works as exactly that: an opening track. It’s a downright curtain-raiser, and screams ‘bad-ass’. Edwards stomps on the bass drum like it’s done her some serious harm in the past, whilst Troy responds to the thump with a procession of strums in direct unison with Edwards’ drum. Troy screams ‘Come on everybody / Listen up’, and doesn’t beat around the bush. These girls call a spade a shovel and waste no time in announcing that they indeed intend to shovel an onslaught of blues-laden mass direct to yours truly over the next 40 minutes. There’s a serious riff in here too, detonated after the stomp. Don’t worry, you can’t miss it…
As mentioned before, though, the drums/guitar duo has been mastered before, and is being replicated increasingly more so. This makes it crucial that each new version requires an X-factor. Deap Vally’s claim to originality is that they’re a pair of bad-ass bitches who are doing this with an abundance of breasts and a lack of an Adam’s Apple, and the female vocal recklessly serenading the stomprock is a relatively fresh breath of air. The band doesn’t need a bass guitar to add the staple depth to their sound – Troy merely turns up the bass and down the treble on her amp, or she could even play her guitar through a bass amp? Problem solved. But again, asides the unmistakable swathes of estrogen, you get the recurring theme that this has been done before. Baby I Call Hell is a prime example of this. It’s a great riff, a superb vocal, and a guaranteed fire-starter at festivals across the world this summer. But listen to The Flaming Lips – Worm Mountain, and decide for yourself how pioneering this is.
The record is, without doubt, an enjoyable listen. It doesn’t deviate from its strengths in the slightest, which means it does lose some of its punch towards the latter stages, but it’s an explicit barometer of the duo’s personalities. Gonna Make My Own Money is a highlight and a manic dose of defiance, and a statement that proves the pair are not out of place in this bracket. Walk of Shame is confirmation (if you needed any more by track 3) that these girls might well be a little bit outrageous, and screams triumph and conquest. Raw Material and Lies contain hooks that are still waiting to be snatched at in those latter stages, and 9-minute closer Six Feet Under houses an acapella outro that proves that Troy may have one other string to her bow.
Sistrionix is going to undoubtedly divide opinion. The cannibals who have been starved of red meat for too long will never have enough of the bass-driven, direct offense, whilst those of us with an upturned nose may spend more time looking at the accusations of “it’s been done before… better”, rather than focus on the fact that this is a couple of girls who have produced an album that plays to its strengths very well. Deap Vally are also a scintillating live act as well as a father’s nightmare, and are louder than a shite shirt. So yes, it’s been done before, but as much as there is to nitpick, there’s just as much to revel in. 70%.
*First published for No Ripcord*