Rarely do you stumble upon a release where the album title and the band name tell you pretty much everything you need to know. It’s about as concise as it gets, and if more folks could distil their raison d’être into just three words, it might leave scribblers like me looking for new gigs. (Hey, hold your applause in the back there!)
Now, for those who might be drawing a blank, let me drop some knowledge. Back in the ’90s, there was a musical movement called Riot Grrrl. Their mission? To snatch back some of the sonic real estate that had been hogged by the dudes since music, and possibly even dudes first became a thing. They did this through a potent blend of feminism, punk music, and politics. Enter Spunky!, the debut album from this Indonesian whirlwind of musical mayhem, and let me tell you, it’s cut from that very same cloth.
Picture this: Lush trying their hand at the Ramones’ playbook. Or The Crystals, if they’d sprung from the Lower East Side of the mid-’70s instead of the Brooklyn of the early ’60s. It’s a potent mix of melody and muscle, sweetness and swagger, eloquence and aggression, groove and grit.
Better still, play the excellently titled Spunky! Perfectly titled because it is just that. And with The Crystals still in mind, Grrrl Gang’s take on, And Then He Kissed Me is a coming-of-age anthem to youthful exuberance brilliantly titled A Fight Breaks Out in a Karaoke Bar, and it is the most infectious and joyous thing this side of… well, you fill in the blank with the most infectious and joyous thing you’ve ever encountered.
And actually, the vibe of “Cool Girl” is pure Lush. (The excellent 90’s indie band, not the overpriced bath products.) You can just picture Miki Berenyi belting out those lines. Well, at least until the creepy outro kicks in, maybe. “Tower Moment” hits you with an epic onslaught of bass overlayed with strange sonic landscapes. “Mother’s Prayers” slinks by in understated style, and “The Star” reveals just how much Riot Grrrl vibes, the pre-Brit-pop indie scene, punk, and pop actually overlap. All you gotta do is ride those interesting and energetic waves that crash farther from the safety of the mainstream shore.
And that’s precisely what Grrrl Gang does. Spunky? No argument from me.