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.)