Tuesday, February 12, 2019
The Donnas - "What Do I Have To Do"
A great thing about getting old is nobody asks me what’s new in music. All for the best, because I can’t stop spinning Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass’s “A Taste Of Honey” on the turntable and my favorite station these days is WDGY.* My latest (but not new) obsession is The Donnas. Not sure what happened to these gals, I daydream about them barnstorming across the country and playing the 7th Street Entry someday and me actually going out on a Friday night like back in the old days. (Does the Entry still sell Colt .45?) I hadn’t gone through a Donnas phase in years, was pleasantly surprised to find out that their latest album was titled Bitchin’, and was chagrined to see that it came out back in ‘07. Then I shrugged my shoulders. Many say I peaked back in ‘97 and I haven’t put out a zine since ‘09, so who am I to cause a fuss over recent output? Good news, it’s another great listen from the gals.
The opening title track starts off with a siren like It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back which leads into Sabbath riffs, swirling background vocals, Beck-era Yardbirds guitar, and speeds up into proper Donnas madness with a Kiss reference (lick it up), a Judas Priest reference (heads are gonna roll), and a chanted promise that they are going to kick your ass all over this album and you’re gonna love it. Then they proceed to kick our asses all over the album and we love it. Great riffs, awesome beat, hooks, gorgeous harmonies and background ooohs and ahhhs, and production so sparkling and flawless you’d think it was Chris Thomas manning the board (it’s not.) This is rock ‘n’ roll at its best, proof is that one of the songs starts out with the same cowbell lead-in as “We’re An American Band.”
I’m 99 to 100 percent sure The Donnas didn’t get the recognition they deserved because of the usual Smart People bias against hard rock. I remember a reviewer in some local alternative paper bitchin’ (ha) about how The Donnas weren’t a punk band after all (he had fallen for the head fake of them having Ramones-like names) and were more like a hard rock or (gasp) metal band. The joke was on him, The Donnas can play, their drummer rules, and their metal riffs kick more ass any play-fast-don’t-worry-about-the-production outfit could come up with. The Donnas sang about the guys they wanted, were clear-cut on how they were going to win said guys over, and left the woe-is-me lyrics to overhyped songwriters on the usual sad sack trip. (And people wonder why some of us don’t listen to Doofus ... I mean Rufus Wainright.)
Not only is this a fun album, it has some fun coincidences. The cover reminds me of that Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle poster, which was itself a throwback to Loverboy’s second album cover. (And Drew Barrymore sang along with a Loverboy song in that movie, but mostly I remember Demi Moore handling a gun in a certain way ...) AND: Importantly on Bitchin’, there’s a song called “Wasted”, which is also the name of a Def Leppard tune on High ‘n’ Dry. This Def Lep nod freaked me out last fall as I was walking around south Minneapolis with this album blasting on headphones, also dually freaking out as I was approaching that duplex due south and east where the two blondes suntan in bikini tops on a blanket with beers ... because The Donnas also have a tune called “What Do I Have To Do” — as did Stabbing Westward, who I’m pretty sure in my zine twenty-some years ago wrote that they sounded like Def Leppard. Ripley’s man, I’m tellin’ ya.
*Weegee! A weird but powerful mix of almost-forgotten sixties/seventies oldies and seventies deep cuts. Available in HD on the FM dial in my office and via TuneIn/Chromecast on the living room hi-fi.