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Photo by James BunoanThe Sharp Ease are an apocalyptically charismatic band for these apocalyptically Republican times By Chris Ziegler
The crowds come tough at the Mouse House of Blues, especially when the Sharp Ease play. There are the Young Republicans. The soccer moms. Even Colin Powell. (Seriously, there was some kind of Colin-related function down the street.) The Sharp Ease could have been nervous when they stepped onstage; instead, they did a head-on into family values with a not-as-jokey-as-it-sounds song called "Lick My Ass." And the Republicans and the soccer moms—and probably Colin Powell—guzzled up every last lascivious note.
"It's taken on an anthem-like thing," says guitarist Sara. "We had, like, middle-aged moms coming up to us, like, 'Oh, can I have a copy of "Lick My Ass"? Oh, no, you know what? Give me three!'"
"We sold out of everything—they bought everything," says singer Paloma.
Those moms are going to go home to set their husbands straight, says Sara, mugging like a leathery Newport ex-debutante and wagging a finger sternly: "'If you're gonna lick my pussy, Harold, you better lick my ass!'"
And you know, it takes some powerful charisma to get a soccer mom's ass licked. Some would say magic, even. But the Sharp Ease could do it—they're an apocalyptically charismatic band for these apocalyptically Republican times. If there's a mark to be made, they'll make it.
Singer Paloma is a novella started by Tennessee Williams and finished by Joan Didion; she gets Iggy and Darby comparisons like you get called ma'am at the mall makeup counter. ("But after I read the [Darby Crash] book, I was like, 'Oh, I'm nothing like him!'" she notes.) Live, she soaks up all the attention—talent, sure, but there's at least a few timid audience members carefully watching her ricochet around the room simply for self-preservation's sake. But their recent seven-inch on LA label Soft Spot puts the rest of the band right up on the pedestal with her.
Guitarist Sara likes the Pixies a lot but forgot where they're from ("Not LA," says bassist Dana. "Oh, they're not?" says Sara, puzzled—by this point, we've all had a few beers). Paloma's "a huge X fan," she says; drummer Christene mentions the Go-Go's (and, seriously, think the B-side of the Go-Go's first single on Stiff, if you're as irreparably nerded-out as we are). The "T-Spin" seven-inch throws it all into three impeccably selected songs, a by turns smart, sweet, soft and savage set of big-beat verse-chorus-verse fuzz. You can tell your punk friends it's punk and your pop friends it's pop, and they'll both believe you.
But better than that, the Sharp Ease sound like LA—the born-and-raised LA, not the clichéd palm-trees-and-poodles shtick. They're sifting their songs out of the foggy early morning freeway drives and fuzzy late-night, cheap-wine-and-basic-cable binges that counterpoint the terminal excitement of the city, the same way the Modern Lovers put suburban Boston into two chords and a "1-2-3-4-5-6!" or X goosed drinking in a puddled alley off Cherokee and Hollywood Boulevard into poetry. You're in love with the AM radio, the world's a mess in your kiss, and—from "T-Spin"—anything worth waiting for will never, never come.
Of course, since they're from LA, the Sharp Ease are also really funny—on the no-safety-net club circuit they tend to play, the pretentious are killed and eaten. They'll U-turn from gleeful shit talk—the only people more likely to say "pussy" in casual conversation are British cat groomers—into matter-of-fact politicking or heartfelt local boosterism. Dodge the humor, and there's a political argument to be made; peel up the corners, and there's a story about a fistfight at a rest stop or intimidating some guy to tears in Santa Cruz. Or plans for a rock opera, even. Somehow, it's all dizzyingly valid—a reservoir of anarchic personality. And somehow, it plays well with the Republicans.
"We're definitely anarchists," says Sara.
"Especially in our art," says Paloma. "A major thing I like to do—that I think we all do—is that as much as the political is personal, I like to make the personal political. I find in my writing; it always ends up about people."
Or people's asses. How much more politically personal does it get? It might not offer the martial satisfaction of "Resist Psychic Death," but it's a lot funnier. It could be the new "R-E-S-P-E-C-T," Paloma says with a grin.
"Yeah," says Sara resolutely. "'Lick My Ass' could revolutionize the whole world."
THE SHARP EASE PERFORM WITH FU MANCHU AT DETROIT BAR, 843 W. 19TH ST., COSTA MESA, (949) 642-7022. SAT., 9 P.M. $7. ALL AGES.