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June 30th, 2004 Richard Shirk | Music Stories
 

Stain Removal

Clorox Girls wash the whine out of punk.

     
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Clorox Girls
In what seems to be the middle of "Walks the Streets" from the Clorox Girls' self-titled debut, the squalling guitar and fall-down backbeat take half a breath. Then, out of nowhere, the bop of a new song, "Not My Hometown," booms to a start. This is what the Clorox Girls do.

Although it's not on the track list, the Girls will dish out this hyperkineticism as the centerpiece of Thursday's PDX Pop Now! compilation release party. A two-disc set, the PDX Pop Now! comp is a musical directory of nearly every other local act keeping Portland music fans sane. But while the Decemberists or Loch Lomond talk us down from the brink, and the Thermals rock the sting out of things, think of the Clorox Girls' eponymous debut as preventative medicine--a primer in efficiency for the younger set.

Recently transplanted from Oakland, the lean sound of this three-piece is a shot in the arm of frenetic rock 'n' roll. Most songs toe the minute mark, the full-length is a shade under 20 minutes, and conventional pop-song structure is not only thrown out the window but stomped on a couple of times first for good measure.

Bad teen punk is everywhere, and not even exclusive to a certain demographic. With their image-over-sound and pastiche-over-art aesthetics, those bands are a blight on all-ages venues, the Clorox Girls are a drastic shift away from the Kool-Aid Rockers whining "I saw you at the show" lines. The short blasts of precise power chords, skeletal songwriting and deep hooks of Clorox Girls make for a damaged testament to anti-preening.

After everyone else's songs about broken hearts and ex-girlfriends, lead Girl Justin Mauer's songs about sex in the streets ("Not My Hometown"), waiting for the Bomb ("Vietnam") and suicide ("Don't Take Your Life") are a relief. Not only are songs about jail and parties sung with the same bratty tone, the ideas come across better for their drive-by brevity.

Songs like the lead-off sprint of "The One" do everything acerbic, fists-in-the-air punk songs should do while clocking in at just over 40 seconds. The combination of buzz-saw guitars, fuzzed bass, breakneck beats and primo anthemics ("Tell me tell me tell me/ Am I the one?") get the job done in the time usually allotted to the other guy's solo. "End of a Fantasy," in comparison, sounds operatic as it squeaks over the two-minute mark to close the deal on an album that lasts barely 17 minutes.

Live, the Clorox Girls are sleek, noisy and combustible. Pay attention. There's a lesson in hearing a band that can thwack us over the head with the next streamlined punk spasm before we know the first is over. Getting to the point is underrated.


Clorox Girls play at the PDX POP Now! Compilation Release Party with Portland General Electro and Binary Dolls on Thursday, July 1, at Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., 239-7639. 9 pm. $5. 21+.
 
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