AAA: IT'S NOT JUST a roadside assistance service, it's a punk-rock staple. It's hardly news that there's a whole class of bands taking their cue from late-'70s British post-punk and early-'80s New York no wave and doing it arty, angular, and abrasive. But when does abrasive get a little too harsh? When is angular no longer a compliment? Where's the line between arty and annoying? As it turns out, two female- fronted Canadian bands with new records out fall on either side of that divide: One's on the cutting edge, the other's just cutting up.
The Sick Lipstick's Sting Sting Sting (Tigerstyle) does to the inside of your ear what a bowl of Cap'n Crunch does to the inside of your mouth: shreds it up and leaves it raw. Singer Lindsay Gillard wields the power sander; she makes the music hurt. Although her bandmates do an admirable job of imitating a nest full of hornets kickboxing with a machine gun, Gillard yelps with a reckless, pouty abandon that crisscrosses Kindercore and hardcore, all but obliterating her band's jerking, swerving, Melt Banana-esque now-wave noise. Thematically, Gillard and the Sick Lipstick would seem to have a perverse sexual agenda. With her curled-up, taunting, baby-talk tone, the "singer" screams about Father Larry in his underwear pushing your head underwater and getting pregnant by Santa Claus, and even implores her subject to "Come inside me/I asked for it/I won't scrape it out." She also likes to cry out, "Mommy." The angles are like a white belt's karate chops, the abrasives are Comet rubbed on a cold sore, and the art is an excuse to be a brat.
Conversely, Montreal's Les Georges Leningrad are the art-punk Cirque du Soleil. They are fantastically costumed robotic beatbox acrobats. They use a curious mix of drum machines, live beats, cabaret mystique, foreign tongues, and fantasies and their angles actually swing; I've seen three of my favorite drummers break into a cold sweat upon hearing the dishpan clang of songs like "Lollipop Lady" from the album Deux Hot Dogs Moutarde Chou (Blow the Fuse). Though one friend described the singer's voice as "challenging," it's nothing like the shrill pierce of Gillard's. LGL are one of those bands whose lyrics very often are a gargling mess of babbling, talking-in-tongues-style madnessbut it works, because they're paired with equally babbling electronics and unifying, percussive guitars. If Lydia Lunch and Nina Hagen were one person, she would be Poney P, the mystery-shrouded singer of LGL; if PiL's Metal Box and Devo's early records were pressed into one piece of hot-as-shit, dance-party vinyl, it would be this business about the two hot dogs with mustard.