The Feminine Mystique
A common assumption about women in rock is that their songs are inevitably about boys. Look at the Donnas, for example. Before they could even think about writing songs for the Mean Girlssoundtrack, the band began constructing their image around the pursuit of boys—lots of them. And that's where their success came from: their ability to take advantage of that gender reversal by being just cute enough to get away with some easy, high-school riffing. But if there's anything that riot grrrl forerunners like Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney have taught us, it's that female punk-rockers don't have to sing about boys to get anyone's attention—they just have to be able to play reckless and loud.
Mika Miko, an all-female five-piece from Los Angeles, do just that. On their Kill Rock Stars debut, C.Y.S.L.A.B.F., the band's sound is all over the place, mashing no-wave discord together with messy, danceable punk. Bad Brains is probably the most common band to reference here, though Mika Miko are also equal parts Red Cross and Lydia Lunch. Their songs are nearly all under two minutes, quick little blasts that bury any preconceptions of femininity under Michelle Suarez's wiry guitars and the back-and-forth shouts of Jennifer Clavin and Jenna Thornhill.
Live, Mika Miko twist and contort all of that into a series of energetic fits and bursts. The last time I saw them, the band bounced and writhed across the stage, pogoing up and down like a pack of frenzied girls hopped up on punk-rock ecstasy. It was all a bit spastic, yes, but it worked because the musicianship remained restrained and controlled—leveling their sound with plenty of sharp instrumentation.
Somewhere in the chaos of their live show, though, Mika Miko still seem to find themselves the objects of affection. More than a few of the guys around me seemed taken aback by the band and still more friends have gushed—yes—about the various members. But Mika Miko aren't soliciting any of this with songs about boys or love—they're just having it thrust upon them. If the band actually wanted any of that, their video for "Business Cats" probably wouldn't have them spitting up black ink in stop-motion. They probably also wouldn't be calling their sound "pony thrash," though I suppose that is a little endearing. Cute, even.
Mika Miko with Lifetime and Shook Ones at Chain Reaction, 1652 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 635-6067; www.allages.com. Fri., 7:30 P.M. $15. All ages.
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