French Vanilla

French Vanilla

Danger Collective Records, 2017

http://frenchvanilla.bandcamp.com

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/01/2018

I can't claim to be in the loop about feminist art-punk bands that hail from Los Angeles, but being a fan of all things unorthodox and creative, I'm always willing to take a listen. This album is the debut from four UCLA undergrads who have been banging away since 2013 and who came up from the queer punk underground. The nine songs here tackle social issues and general observations from a unique, compelling and, well, weird angle. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Honesty” leads the short album with bright, eccentric pop à la Talking Heads, where the vocals are both sung and melodically yelped. Next up,  the moody, saxophone heavy “Carrie” is as morbid as the book it's based on; but the disturbing story is told through an upbeat and pop-friendly tune. French Vanilla's punk influences comes through with 'Thru The Earth,” where post-punk ideas are met with a modern version of indie rock, before the return of the sax with the throbbing and genre-skipping “Evolution Of A Friendship.”

The second half of this disc is just as oddly enticing. “Mother's Love” features plenty of wavering vocals and unfolds like a B-52's meets Bikini Kill arrangement, before the garage rock influenced scrappy punk of “Anti-Aging Global Warming.” “Social Trappings” embraces jazzy dance-punk, while “Sports” retreats back to moody post-punk. The album closes on the thumping percussion of “Heavy Handed,” which is a bit more abrasive and threatens to careen out of control but is held together with tense melody.

This is an album that's reminiscent of what was going on in Washington state in the early '90s (think the Kill Rock Stars label). Legends like Bratmobile, LeTigre, or even the jazz fury of Nation Of Ulysses come to mind. French Vanilla is a band that is clearly not short on ideas or talent (frontwoman Sally Spitz is full of vocal acrobatics), and this debut is a fun, captivating listen that's likely to collect them legions of new fans.

Rating: A-

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