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+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
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Call And Response
Kill Rock Stars

The Olympia, Wash., punk-rock trio couldn't have picked a better name. Bang! It's fast, loud, explosive and short. Bang-bang! See? Just like the group's latest EP release, Call and Response. Bang! Got you again. The Bangs will get you every time.

With unstoppable energy and a great knack for crafting catchy melodies, the six-song record (i.e. shot of adrenaline) races, makes messes and shouts right in your ear. Produced by Unwound mastermind Justin Trosper, it's imperfect and tough and pissed-off. It's punk-rock you wanna speed with, jump with and pump your fist with.

The title track, which opens the CD, bleeds with a racing intensity so quick it seems the last line might catch up and run over the first, possibly due to the bitter rage that feeds it. Expressing disgust at what's all too familiar to us ladies, lead singer/guitarist Sarah Utter sneers, "Do you know just how it feels/ To always get called out/ Every minute, every day/ They wanna drag you down/ Into a world of ugly words/For all the pretty things/ A girl has got to hide away/ To walk by quietly."

The Bangs — Utter, bassist/vocalist Maggie Vail and drummer Peter David Connelly — mesh pop-punk's infectious lightheartedness, hard rock's mean, dark edginess and riot grrrl's informed and in-your-face attitude for a sound that's both fun and energetic at the same time it's thoughtful and strong. The lovable, airy and uplifting "Kinda Good" is, without being either pretentious or cynical, a flat-out, lovey-dovey ballad that you can't help but adore. "Rainy days go away/ Yeah you know it's true/ When I'm with you," Utter sings. Sappy but cute — it's the sort of song that makes you suddenly fawn over the little but meaningful things in life.

Driven by a guitar line quite reminiscent of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid," the dark and grinding closer "Dirty Knives" features the piercing back-up shrieks of Vail's sister, Tobi (you might recall her from Bikini Kill), and, in spite of the playful handclaps, feels disturbed and desperate. "The graves we dig so deep/ With secrets that we keep/ We cry ourselves to sleep," Utter sings, sounding both urgent and acquiescent.

So we've got adrenaline, love, and knives — what more do you want from a badass punk-rock record? Bang! Works every time.

by Jenny Tatone

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