Music » Record Reviews

Local rocker talks tough with lean arrangements, unholy guitar squall.



It's a cliché to say that someone is the hardest working man or woman in rock-and-roll, but when it comes to Alicja Trout, front-kitten for the River City Tanlines, there's just no getting around it. Since bursting onto the Memphis scene with new-wave innovators the Clears, she has loaned her talents to innumerable bands, most prominently the Lost Sounds, with an oeuvre that ranges from dreamy Kate Bush-isms to moody, futuristic noise-rock, and includes frequent forays into indie pop and the ragged blues-trash so closely associated with the Memphis garage sound. You just can't pin the girl down, and listening to the tough-talking on this brain-jarring, head-bopping collection of the Tanlines' singles -- easily the first lady of Memphis punk's least sophisticated offering -- I'm not sure that you'd want to.

Gone are the shrieking-now-gurgling-later keyboards that were at the heart of the Clears and that featured so prominently on tracks by the Lost Sounds and Mouse Rocket. Gone are Trout's infrequent but memorable reminders that she has a girlie side and a gift for bubble-gum pop. The Tanlines specialize in lean arrangements, chugging rhythms (courtesy of rhythm section Terrence Bishop and Bubba John Bonds), and unholy guitar squalls designed to make good girls go bad and to make bad boys worse. Their sound is aggressive, with revved-up nods to '60s girl groups, murder jazz, Mississippi blues, and arena rock. Lyrically, the Tanlines blend the nihilistic urge to get your fix, kicks, and chicks that was defined by groups such as the Ramones and the New York Dolls. But David Johansson seems like a Jonathan Richman-esque innocent, "just looking for a kiss," compared to Trout, whose "just looking for a line" might manifest itself as a strong come-on from the right stranger, a neatly trimmed length of white powder, or a well-timed life preserver tossed in her general direction. -- Chris Davis

Grade: B+

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