Both Before I'm Gone

Girl In A Coma

Blackheart, 2007

REVIEW BY: Paul King


Formed in San Antonio, Texas in 2001, the calamitously named Girl In A Coma consists of sisters Nina and Phanie Diaz on guitar and drums, respectively, with Phanie’s long-time best friend Jenn Alva handling the bass. The band takes its name from the Smiths’ song “Girlfriend In A Coma” and it should come as no surprise that the girls are all huge fans of said band. Both Before I’m Gone is the band’s first full-length album and according to singer and guitarist Nina, “The title for the album comes from something James Dean once said: ‘Being an actor is hard. Being a man is even harder. I hope to be both before I’m done.’ I like to say, ‘Being a musician is hard. Being a human is even harder. I hope to be both before I’m gone.’”

The album opens with “Clumsy Sky,” a sublime pop/punk hybrid that won the band an Independent Music Award for Best Song in 2007. As a statement of intent, the song pretty much epitomizes everything that Girl In A Coma is about musically. Beginning softly with a gentle intro that features Nina Diaz’s muted, almost comforting delivery to great effect, it soon explodes into the slicing guitars, pounding rhythms and ferociously haunting vocals that characterise the band’s signature sound. It’s an infectiously exuberant three-and-a-half minutes that comes on not unlike Nirvana being fronted by Siouxsie Sioux.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Much has been made in the media of the debt the band owes to The Smiths musically, but to my ears, a Nirvana/Siouxsie And The Banshees comparison is much more appropriate and something that I just can’t get away from when listening to the album. It seems to me that the overriding influences on the band’s music are those of the great American alternative bands like The Pixies, Blink 182 and Nirvana, while Nina’s voice genuinely has the same enchanting, ghostly power that Siouxsie Sioux commands at her most beguiling.

Having said that, there are indeed traces of Morrissey’s influence buried beneath these more overt aspects of Girl In A Coma’s sound. Of all the tracks on the album, the spectre of The Smiths probably looms largest on “Celibate Now,” while the moody “Sybil Vane Was Ill” name-checks the heroine from Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture Of Dorian Gray, which is a very Morrissey-style move, lyrically speaking.

Again, I may be in disagreement with much of the music press, but I can’t help thinking that Nina’s Diaz’s capricious, scattershot lyrics have more in common with Michael Stipe’s artful, early 80s mumblings than Morrissey’s darkly humorous, angst ridden parlance. The words grind against the fractured melodies that Nina frenetically intones in such a dense, literate and frankly claustrophobic manner that the end result is quite different from Morrissey’s modus operandi.

While it’s certainly a strong debut, not every track on Both Before I’m Gone quite hits the mark. My chief complaint would have to be that some of Girl In A Coma’s music is a tad derivative. “Their Cell,” for example, has a vocal melody and chord changes that are more than slightly reminiscent of Radiohead’s “Creep,” and “Mr. Chivalry” sounds a bit too close musically to The Undertones’ “Teenage Kicks” for comfort.

When they hit their stride, though, this band really does fire on all cylinders, creating a frenetic and darkly unique soundscape. Fans of alternative rock, punk and even gothic rock will find much to admire amongst the album’s thirteen tracks. In short, Both Before I’m Gone is an exciting and confident sounding debut from a band that is definitely one to watch for in the future.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2008 Paul King and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Blackheart, and is used for informational purposes only.