Release Date: 05.06.03
Record label: RCA
Genre(s): Movies, Film Scores, Musicals, Etc.
If You Say "Avril Lavigne Ripoff," Noelle Will Kick Your Ass
by: matt cibula
Eleven songs that sound like poppy punky punk-pop, fronted by a tough-sounding teenage girl. Interested? Sure, you are, at least a little; if you're not, then you're a big goth snob and everyone else hates you.
My first couple of times through this, though, that's what I was thinking: "Oh, boy, here come the Lavigne clones." And I'm not even an Avril fan. I could care less about her -- sure, "Complicated" is an okay ballad, but "Sk8ter Boi" annoys me fifty ways to Sunday, and I'm pretty sure that any punk bones in the teeny Canadienne's body have been surgically implanted there. But she's successful, and when someone's successful, they get replicated double-quick. I was pretty sure that Damone was more of the same.
But you can't really blame me, can you? First off, frontgrrl Noelle LeBlanc is being touted as a "real" punk, a BMX-racing Massachusetts chica -- but she (like Avril) isn't really a songwriter, as guitarist David Pino is the svengali behind everything here. Secondly, Noelle's voice is the same kind of girlish/barbaric yawp as Avril's, and carries about as much emotional weight, which is not all that much. And, finally, thought I, Damone treads the same musical territory, pop music for people who think they're listening to skatepunk; hell, the first song isn't 15 seconds old before Noelle's talking about "I freestyle wherever I go."
Here's why I was wrong to think all that: because, really, who gives a damn? So what if Damone is riding some coattails here? It's not their fault they got signed, and pop music is all about marketing anyway, so just leave aside any notions of "authenticity" and you'll be okay. And that goes for Avril as well as Damone as well as anyone else. Stop being such a damned snob.
Plus, Pino's songs are kinda good. I'm not sure I would call any of them great, but they stick in the memory in a not-so-evil way. In fact, I think it's pretty clear that his major inspirations are more like Cheap Trick and their imitator/lovers (Green Day, etc.) than any Canadian pseudo-skater pop. "Your Girlfriends" spins a tale of thwarted jealousy over some loud/soft dynamics and a radio-friendly sort of slashattack; "Up to You" is basically "Jessie's Girl" with some Big Star and Rancid overtones; "Driveway Blues" dips shallowly into the pool of Liz Phair (who is now working with the Matrix just like Avril, small world). It kinda goes like that.
So if you love 70s/80s powerpunk, you'll like this. Noelle's voice is untutored and real, and gets her through new wavers like "You and I" as well as power-ballads like "Overchay With Me." (No, I don't know what an "overchay" is. I guess I should, huh? Well, forget it.) Pino loves to play metal solos on these songs, and the rhythm section is Nirvana-great.
These are fun songs. They're not amazing; just about all the tempos are the same, the melodies aren't always apparent, and three separate references to working at the carwash is just one too many at least. But they're good, and fun, and better than what's-her-face. Plus the fact that "Leave Me Alone" is a pretty devastatingly cool album-ender, a little acousticy job with a twist ending that you see coming all the way but you like seeing it anyway so it doesn't matter.
So yeah, Damone is cool with me. 15-May-2003 1:18 PM