Around the time Pansy Division released Total Entertainment in summer 2003, the Advocate pointed out they were pretty much the only punk band made up of gay men.
Lesbians, on the other hand, have a pretty storied indie rock history — Team Dresch, Le Tigre, Lucsious Jackson (in part), Sleater-Kinney (ditto). There’s even a label dedicated to indie rock by lesbians — Mr. Lady Records.
As I type, I bet some enterprising college student is writing some thesis on why lesbians make better rock musicians. Not to slag Stephin Merritt or Elton John — but can you really raise a fist to their music?
With the Butchies, you can.
After three albums on Mr. Lady, the lesbian trio has moved to Yep Roc for its fourth album, Make Yr Life.
Butchies albums are pretty brisk, and Make Yr Life is no exception. From start to finish, the trio hammers each song, none clocking more than 3 1/2 minutes.
Kaia Wilson’s voice possesses the same kind of sweetness and urgency that makes Sleater-Kinney a perennial favorite. And the band is jackhammer tight.
When Wilson commands, “fake fake fake your fear” on the title track, drummer Melissa York and bassist Alison Martlew literally pound the point home.
The band doesn’t obfuscate the gay themes in their music, nor are they blatant about it. “17” paints a picture of teenage uncertainty, in which the protagonist “smokes fags with fags”.
And “She’s So Lovely” is about what the title suggests.
The only mixed bag on the album is the concluding cover of the Outfield’s “Your Love”. The slow-downed interpretation is a nice reading of the song, but after witnessing the Butchies prove its heavy mettle, it’s disappointing not to hear the band approach the song with the same bombast of the original.
(And man, would that rock if they did!)
The Butchies offer yet another notch in a growing tally of lesbian rockers, and Make Yr Life is an excellent entry. Now if only gay men could catch up.
Don’t even mention Judas Priest or Queen.