DEATH VALLEY GIRLS
Death Valley Girls, a band name that conjures images of The Kelly Affair from Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert's cult movie classic, 'Beyond the Valley of the Dolls'... but, hey, I'm sure that's just some sort of misplaced word association in my head. What we're actually dealing with here is, to quote press blurb, "doom boogie/dystopian punk/occult glam rockers" from LA. However, what Death Valley Girls do have in common with Meyer's masterpiece of campy iconoclasm is that they seem to have posited their aesthetic, from album cover to the music itself, right in the midst of the early-70s. But not the glamorous, colourful, glittery side of that era; rather, this is the antithesis of that, and veers more towards an edgy, dirty punk dynamic. After all, the album is called 'Darkness Rains'. Actually, though, the first few pieces on the album have many moments of sonic optimism and uplifting refrains that shine through their gritty foundations, and it's not until the down-tempo 'Abre Camino' that darkness well and truly rains on what is a finely crafted piece of psychedelic occult rock.
With a super slim playing time, this album eschews fat and filler in favour of getting right to the crux, which is ten cuts characterised by discernible garage vibes, but also coloured with glimpses of grunge, primitive metal infusions, a touch of psychedelia, and some serious grooving attitude. Guitarist Larry Schemel has a natural playing style that creates and rides the garage grooves in the instrumentations through his often fuzz-fuelled, down-and-dirty distortion. Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Bonnie Bloomgarden delivers all her singing with an edge of despair and anxiety, and with a serious amount of warble. Her voice makes for quite a captivating listen and that unique delivery actually gives the album's fleeting, ever so slightly below-par moments an extra lift, such as 'Born Again and Again'.
Schemel and Bloomgarden are said to be the core of Death Valley Girls and "their relentless touring schedule means that the remainder of the group is rounded out by whichever like-minded compatriots can get in the van." Currently (or at least on these recordings), a rhythm section of bassist Alana Amram and drummer Laura Harris completes the lineup, alongside a number of guest musicians. But this really does feel like Schemel and Bloomgarden's baby as it's the guitars and vocals that dominate proceedings. And the proceedings feel 100% organically conceived and conveyed, through a production that has just the right amount of polish so as not to detract from the natural feeling of the whole thing. And I bet this sounds wonderful on vinyl... which I believe is also being pressed, with a first run of just 1,500 copies, for those who want to be rained on in full-on analogue darkness. All in all, this third full-length outing for Death Valley Girls is a definite winner.
Review by Mark Holmes
5th October 2018
1) More Dead
2) (One Less Thing) Before I Die
3) Disaster (Is What We're After)
4) Unzip Your Forehead
5) Wear Black
6) Abre Camino
7) Born Again and Again
8) Street Justice
9) Occupation: Ghost Writer
10) TV in Jail on Mars
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...ten cuts characterised by discernible garage vibes, but also coloured with glimpses of grunge, primitive metal infusions, a touch of psychedelia, and some serious grooving attitude."