Release Date: Sep 17, 2013
Record label: Old Flame Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Punk Revival
The young women of Potty Mouth balk at the idea of being dropped under a “riot grrrl” genre designation, and understandably so. As bassist Ally Einbender rightly put it to the folks at Stereogum earlier this year, “GENDER DOES NOT EQUAL GENRE.” Can’t blame them for being frustrated at this. Sure, the band named itself after a seminal document of the riot grrrl movement—the first LP by Bratmobile—but only viewing this quartet from that narrow perspective is just silly.
Before a generation of Blink wannabes made it a dirty term, pop-punk was a pretty appropriate term for punk bands willing to adhere to the stylistic confines of pop. Now, a new generation of acts are looking to bring it back to its roots. Leading the charge are Potty Mouth, four women from Northampton, MA who've made a name for themselves on the back of a pair of DIY releases that harken back to the early '90s without wallowing in the era's tropes.
Potty Mouth don't shake the foundation of guitar rock, but they do inject it with attitude, playing the Ladyfest-aligned basement scene while also transcending it. Dreamt up at women's-only Smith College, in Northampton, Mass., bassist Ally Einbinder and drummer Victoria Mandanas had already played the punk scene, allowing Potty Mouth a driving energy, while Phoebe Harris, also a visual artist, didn't own a guitar. Abby Weems, a recent high school grad, fronts the band with deceptively simple lyrical play-- her Liz Phair-style monotone is clear and literal, underscoring the direct quality of their pop-punk poetry.
Taking their name from Bratmobile's 1993 album, Potty Mouth follow through on riot grrrl's ideals, not so much in their sound as in their actions: they're an all-female band whose members write their own songs and book their own tours. Yet Bratmobile were one of the movement's most playful and poignant acts, and that spirit lives on in Hell Bent's songs, which channel all kinds of dissatisfaction into breezy, buzzy catharsis. Potty Mouth borrow from plenty of other '90s women in rock -- the album's crisp, punchy sound and the sassy vibe of songs like "Wishlist" recall the Breeders -- but Abby Weems' sullen vocals help the band bridge the gap between nostalgia and present-day urgency.
The label name associated with Potty Mouth’s fine debut is even more apt than the record’s title. It’s as if your first college music crush was along the lines of the pinched, yearning vox, wildly off-the-rails 27-second guitar solos, and university town back porch beer-drinking melodies of Dinosaur Jr., Squirrel Bait, and those great, raggedy Minneapolis bands you already thought were starting to lose it by 1987. While not exactly as heavy as any of those lights, and gulping down just a few Clinton-era Gummy (Huggy?) Bears shaped like the poppier riot grrrls, this Northhampton, MA, four-piece knocks out their chosen vintage-alt sound like they’ve been at it for years.
When Potty Mouth’s superlative Sun Damage mini-LP dropped last year, it was instantly noticeable that the band had built their punk-fuelled pop on the foundations that riot grrrl laid down two decades earlier. The purposeful directness of Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney’s way with an angular chord structure… hey, they even took their name from a Bratmobile album. This follow-up full-length feels like more of the same but somehow even better, thanks to a healthy shot in the arm from dreamy melodicists like Velocity Girl or Tiger Trap – bittersweet melancholy to underpin their three-minute bursts of furious splendour.