More Power Pop than You!

Defining the Bangs

The term Snotty Punk suggests some guy with safety pins in his face and drool hanging off his lip, snarling about suburbia in a fake British accent. The term Bratty Punk suggests that same guy, but instead of snarling in a fake British accent, he's posing for a photo with his middle finger flipped at the camera and maybe trying to expose his naughty man bits. If not that, then he's at least wearing some kind of stick-it-to-the-Man/in-yo-face T-shirt.

This is because—and we're not the first to note this; hell, no, we aren't—punk has become less a state of mind and more a style of dress. Snotty Punk and Bratty Punk are on sale at the mall, Chip on Your Shoulder™ and Dissent™ sold separately.

For this reason, when a band like Olympia, Washington, trio the Bangs—who really are punk in the stripped-down, unpretentious, do-it-yourself, fast, loud, peppy, snotty, bratty-but-not-snarly way—comes along, you must find other words to describe it.

You could call them pop punk because there really is a preponderance of catchy, hooky pop in their punk, but no, you really can't because pop punk refers, somewhat exclusively, to endearingly dorky booger-and-fart-joke-loving guy trios who are endorsed by action-sports clothing companies and who rail not against suburbia but rather against growing up. Damn, Blink-182!

The kids in the Bangs—vocalist/ guitarist Sarah Utter, bassist Maggie Vail and drummer Kyle Ermatinger—sport a staggering indie pedigree (Utter plays lead in Witchypoo and designed the cover of their upcoming album, Sweet Revenge; Vail, the younger sister of Bikini Kill drummer Tobi Vail, works as a publicist at the Bangs' celebrated überindie label Kill Rock Stars; Ermatinger played in Spook and the Zombies), and they seem more disgruntled by the comparisons they get to other female bands.

"Idiots compare them to Sleater-Kinney based on a couple of surface similarities," says their bio, which is all good and fine if by surface similarity they mean, um . . . the way they sound and the way they occasionally, on certain words, push their crystalline vocals to the outer reaches of their range, causing these certain words to pop out above the din of tight, well-crafted, snotty, bratty, angular, jagged, pop punk.

But they're much less angular and jagged than fellow Olympians Sleater-Kinney. Okay, so I'm an idiot.

The Bangs—their name refers less to the haircut and more to the sound and action—are really power pop, but don't let that sink in until you've cleared your mind of all the images and associations that MTV has placed there. How about this one: they sound like a mix between Sleater-Kinney, the Donnas and Supernova, and you can have that comparison, but only if you promise to go see them live, which is surely where they shine.

Which is not to say that Sweet Revenge doesn't rock because it does. The Bangs play the kind of lively, kinetic (insert your own damn term here) music that can merely be hinted at on CD but is just better communicated in the flesh.

THE BANGS PLAY WITH ALIGN, THE RATTLESNAKES AND RADIO LISTENING PARTY AT KOO'S ART CAFE, 1505 N. MAIN ST., SANTA ANA, (714) 648-0937. THURs., JUNE 8, 8 P.M. $5. ALL AGES.

 
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