Record review: Potty Mouth ‘Hell Bent’ // release party October 7 @ Great Scott
Released September 17 via Old Flame Records
[dropcap]Y[/dropcap]ou know why you don’t remember Thrasher asking all about JFA’s view on gender discrimination at skate parks? Why you can’t recollect any writers for Flipside questioning the Descendents about ways in which patriarchy extends to the pit? It’s because that shit never happened, that’s why. Those bands contained all dudes, but no one assumed, based solely on their (presumably) uniform genitalia, that their members harbored opinions on dudedom in general, or even gender issues or sexual politics. But historically there’s a double-standard when discussing bands comprised exclusively of women, as is the attic-punk quartet Potty Mouth. The Northampton, Mass.-based foursome’s debut full-length Hell Bent is out Tuesday on Old Flame. And as good and pure a rock and roll record as the 10-song set is, certain commentators seem unwilling to just let Potty Mouth rock without first administering a quick ideological stop-and-frisk.
While we wouldn’t call Hell Bent a gender-neutral collection, those who would make an issue of the gender of the members of Potty Mouth are profoundly missing the point. It’s just not what their music is about. The quartet went on the record a year ago, telling then-Boston Phoenix scribe Liz Pelly its music is only occasionally feminist, its music-making a decidely non-political act. The fact is that in terms of academic or even arty intermediation, there’s just not a lot to parse on Hell Bent. That’s no slight: It’s apparent Potty Mouth set out to make an elemental punk rock album, not a didactic tome, and they have succeeded grandly.
Hell Bent is persistently appealing because it is rooted in solid punk fundamentals: Adolescent(-sounding) attitudes, pronounced hooks and visceral, hanging-out-the-car-window fun. The songs are compact and swing, but not buffed to a high shine. Instead, the production is raw, the approach straightforward; Rhythm guitars are mildly distorted, Phoebe Harris’ linear guitar leads are neatly reverb-ed, the drums boxy, and Abby Weems’ vocals at times slightly deadpan. All of this suggestsan early ’90s Yo-Yo A Go-Go vibe, although those with no firsthand recollection of the ’90s are more likely to lump Potty Mouth together with poppier contemporaries Swearin’. That latter reference is serviceable, although Potty Mouth’s musical roots at their deepest tap blues-derived garage sounds, while Swearin’s stylistic wellspring carries a clear born-on date of 1977.
With each tune — including album highlights “Bullseye” and “Sleep Talk” — delivering memorable melodies, Hell Bent feels a lot like a singles collection instead of a long-playing album. Which is another thing that makes Potty Mouth’s record feel like a throwback to the pre-AOR era. And it speaks to a high quality of songwriting that should be among the first things mentioned when discussing Potty Mouth, as opposed to which bathroom they’ll all use at the Elevens.