Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Girl In A Coma Makes Some Nice Exits

Named after an old song by The Smiths, the unlikely trio of three "sisters" from San Antonio, Texas, continues to pack a punch with its punk and grunge-imbued rock. Exits & All The Rest is intensely diverse, testing a full range of fuzziness and growlers to make a wild ride from the top down.

And while some skeptics still say the girls — Nina  Diaz (vocals/guitar), Phanie Diaz (drums), and Jenn Alva (bass) have had an exceptionally easy go of it over the last five years since their adoption by Joan Jett and producer Kenny Laguna, there is much more to it than that. They work for every note, especially Nina Diaz, who continually proves she can sing nearly anything.

There is only one way Exits & All The Rest is a disappointment, and it has nothing to do with the band. So much attention is being given to the 80s Brit-rock pick Smart that the best of the album is being dismissed. Yeah, Nina Diaz has a beautiful, softly sweet voice when she wants to, but it is her ability to swoon, growl, and pommel that is her greatest asset.

Girl In A Coma hopes to diversify the musical palate of their fans. 

On the flip side, no one can fault them for what they really wanted to do with Exits & All The Rest. Phanie Diaz might have put it best when she said they wanted to make an album that introduces people to the diversity of music they like and give them a glimpse into who this band really is.

The reason it's important to them (and any band for that matter) is that they want to remain connected to their roots, with influences ranging from their grandfather to Buffalo Springfield and Joy Division. They are very proud of being from San Antonio, where many people's fondness for sound isn't confined to a single genre. If anything, they try to merge them all and break the rules. Just like this fan capture suggests.

Adjust is the broodiest, hardest-hitting sonic track on the album, bending back and forth from restrained to ferocious over a steady bass line and drum beat. It's also an example of how the girls have remained unfazed by musical trends and keep a consistent eye on a feral approach to the music scene.

Other underplayed tracks include the brutally honest throwback She Had A Plan that resurrects Dick Dale, and the near deeply emotive and reflective crooning inside Sly, the grinding instrumental bed overlain with the fuzzed and silky vocals from another era. Nina Diaz's voice has a stickiness unlike any other in the business, even on the bonus track Coffee And Tea.

There's no surprise the entire album was recorded on analog. 

The thickness of the production deserves props too. Recorded in Austin, the behind-the-scenes work is easily among Mike McCarthy's (Spoon, Trail of Dead, AM Taxi) best. The recording process obviously brought out a ferociousness that can only be achieved on analog, with all of the basic tracks recorded live. There is no other way to capture the real energy of a band caught up in the music they create.

You can hear it in the fearless song One Eyed Fool. You can feel it in the punk assault of Hope. Never mind that the song is about an immigration dispute. It transcends the politics, capturing some raw and passionate feelings. It shakes and rattles, right down to the bones.

In fact, one of the reasons I've always liked Girl In A Coma is that while they've always been willing to talk openly about being women rockers, Mexican-American, and two-thirds lesbian, none of that really defines them. While they want to represent, the only thing they want people to see them for first is as musicians.

Exits & All The Rest By Girl In A Coma Nails 9.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Maybe it's the maturity in the songwriting, but if Exits & All The Rest can't wake up some people to new music or prove that there is plenty to explore in rock, then they must be the ones in a musical coma. Sure, I'm a little less bullish on Cemetery Baby and a couple others but I couldn't imagine the LP without them. The diversity helps build anticipation for whatever might lay around the corner.

Exists & All The Rest by Girl In A Coma is on iTunes. You can also find the CD at Barnes & Noble or  download it at Amazon. One caution before you purchase the album. Make sure it is the bonus edition. You also need to be aware that the bonus tracks are split. Coffee And Tea is on iTunes, but Amazon carries the haunting track Hotel.
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