SARGENT HOUSE

Album review: Le Butcherettes, “Sin Sin Sin”

The most amazing act I caught at SXSW 2011—and one of the best I’ve seen by chance in a good long time, period—it was with some trepidation that I first spun Le Butcherettes’ first full album, recently released on the label started by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (Mars Volta, At the Drive-In) and featuring his production and bass playing, lest the recording fail to live up to the take-no-prisoners live rock assault. But fear not: “Sin Sin Sin” is just as overwhelmingly powerful as the band’s stage show, and if you can’t revel in the spectacle of bandleader Teri Gender Bender, a.k.a. Teri Suarez, running rampant throughout the club on record, well, you do have the added bonus of being able to savor every subtle nuance she puts into spitting out her grrrl-power lyrics.

“All he needs is a piece of you and me/Honey,” Gender Bender growls in the ferocious opener, “Tonight,” riding a giddy New Wave keyboard groove punctuated by a rolling drum beat. “It’s sin tonight, honey/In my mouth/In my thigh/In my backside/In the middle of my sleep/Tonight!” And the charm of her delivery, in this song and throughout the album, is that it’s impossible to tell if she’s joyful about this or so angry that she’s ready to kill.

That ambiguity is what makes the group absolutely irresistible, recalling Polly Jean Harvey at her strongest and Courtney Love before she lost the plot, but ratcheted up a notch and with the added venom that comes from watching American excess and hubris from Mexico City and Guadalajara, where the band was based before recently relocating to Los Angeles. (Here is an excellent profile by Todd Martens of the Los Angeles Times, who first turned me on to the band.)

Gender Bender is brilliant, literate, and political without every being preachy or pretentious, even when name-dropping Henry Miller, J.D. Salinger, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, thanks to a biting sense of biting humor and an unerring knack for crafting those ’60s pop-via-’70s New Wave melodies, generally played with hardcore punk fury (think Blondie with Black Flag intensity), unless she’s breaking things down for dramatic effect, as in the Kurt Weill-on-steroids romp of “The Leibniz Language” (a reference to the German philosopher, mathematician, and linguist Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, doncha know) or the show-stopping, minimalist drums-and-chant epic, “Dress Off.”

The combination of celebrating love, lust, and social justice while raging against gender inequality and the machine in general have rarely sounded this vital or been so much fun, and “Sin Sin Sin” is absolutely necessary and essential. - by Jim DeRogatis

On the four-star scale: 4 STARS