Friday, April 20, 2012

Team Dresch - Personal Best (Classic of The Week)

I'm going to talk about gender issues here. I'll do my best, but this is always a bumpy ride. In the mid 90's I remember a column in Heartattack zine in which the writer chose to do an interesting piece on some of the all female bands of that time. It pointed out that a good deal of the all female bands at that time were not very good musicians at all (Bikini Kill, Spitboy, etc) and I pretty much agreed with this assessment. Don't get me wrong, there were definitely a huge amount of untalented all male bands, sure. However, if you said an all male band were horrible musicians it usually didn't illicit being accused of sexism in most circles.

The premise of the article pointed out that many people were interested in what the mid 90's all female bands had to say, but to express any enthusiasm or awe for the musicianship was simply not being honest..rather it was condescending (why say "good job!" if you don't mean it?). There seemed to be more people just focusing on gender, rather than focusing on the quality of the music or if these musicians could even play their instruments. The male point of view seemed to be "they're good...for girls" and the female point of view seemed to be "finally...girls!".

But let's be objective here for a second and forget all about gender. We have to ask some simple questions. Is the music well done? Are these folks good at their instruments? Team Dresch was a band that, to me, was well ahead of just about every female band at the time in terms of musicianship. They didn't need to be told they were "good for being girls" or have their primary focus be "girls playing music". This musicianship spoke for itself. And while I understand the significance of the band in the "queercore" movement of the time and recognize the band's politics as equally important, it doesn't hurt that they could write some great, timeless songs in addition to their relevant social commentary.

That being said, I found this record in the late 90's and it was totally different from anything I was listening to at the time. The song writing has a dual female vocal that mostly maintains a melodic nature, but jumps out into scream in some rare instances. The guitars sit closer to the bright and jangly side of things at times, but when some nice heavier distortion is appropriate it's provided. The drum work is well done, precise and powerful; not too flashy, but enough to let you know the drummer has a good sense of what needs to where.

With exception of "Freewheel" (a gitty, upbeat country-esque track) the songs put all these ingredients to good use in creating a nice interpretation on punk and hardcore. The catchy bass line on "Hate The Christian Right!" launches the band into an angry assault, done with just the right amount of aggression to not sound forced. The palm muted stomp of "Growing Up in Springfield" and it's ingenious variations from clean to distorted guitar in the same verse are extremely impressive. There are moments like this throughout the record that make this collection of songs really stand the test of time.

Get it here.