"This idea of genre is really lame; you don't listen to music, you listen to types of music and then sub-types inside of that. I think there's gonna be a move, and it will probably be done by throwing a whole bunch of things together to try to confuse it, dilute these fucking categories in your mind, which is fascist and slavery," Mike Watt told me in an interview last year. "Yeah, it makes marketing easier, but on all the other fronts it makes things so much tougher and harder and bigoted and segregated."
He couldn't be more right. Today's trendy genre of choice is garage. Or maybe it's punk? Or perhaps raw, gritty blues? Plain rock 'n' roll? Hell, it's just music, and some of it's pretty damn good music at that. All these different pieces of rock 'n' roll history mingling with fresh angles on reinterpreting it let's just hope today's tunes confuse the label-making, category-defining marketers.
Sahara Hotnights' latest album, Jennie Bomb, is a fantastic example of this. Sure, the Swedish foursome is garage, punk and rock, even a little bluesy at times. But what matters most is that they're good, damn good. Strutting, swaggering and shaking things up, the incredibly talented band blurs the lines and makes you forget why genres matter. Likely inspired by an already mixed set of influences, the band melds metal's tough side and rock's straight-ahead high-strung energy with punk's gritty angst and the band's own personal passion and emotion. Every now and then you'll see a flash of where they're coming from, but, in the end, they've hit you with something all their own. The Sahara Hotnights have concocted a sincerely powerful, rumbling form of rock 'n' roll that uses a mess of snippets from music history and reshapes it into a collage that feels like new as they wail, stomp and pound on your ears.
And yes, they're all girls. Should we call them riot grrrls? Powerpuffs maybe? It shouldn't matter but, unfortunately, it continues to be an uncommon, curious, even shocking ("they're good for girls!") characteristic in the rock world. These girls are good, but it's got nothing to do with their sex Š although their sound can be pretty sexy, even seductive, at times. It all just feels right the guitars grinding and meshing with the stomping beats and bittersweet vocals harmonizing just so with the blasting melodies and traveling bass lines.
Jennie Bomb is hard and fast, yet smooth and catchy no artsy imperfections or post-punk dissonance, just well played, high-energy punk rock. But, as aforementioned, certainly not that alone. "Fire Alarm" is driven by a Pixies-ish guitar riff, pleading vocals and an emotionally charged melody, while "No Big Deal" rolls so fast you might think the last line is gonna beat out the next extremely melodic but tough. Lead singer/guitarist Maria Anderson has the sort of singing style that wails, begs, seduces and tells you to get lost all at once intense and drenched in attitude. "Only the Fakes Survive" is the slowest track for its dark backdrop and desperate croons, while the album's mean, distorted and anthemic closer "Out of the System" is driven by a call-to-arms feel: "Get on little sister/ Into the streets/ Get on little sister/ Up on your feet/ C'mon it's getting late."
The Sahara Hotnights lend hope that the music world is ready to release the genres that keep us divided and turn a cold shoulder to the marketing that creates them. Sahara Hotnights have, at the very least, knocked some cinder blocks out of the walls that separate. Keep it up.