An evening spent with the Red Aunts is about as soothing as a soak in a tub of raw sewage. The Southern California band’s brand of unfiltered music is toxic, especially when the vocals hit the piercing pitch of a three-year-old throwing a temper tantrum. Obvious and valid comparisons include L7, the Lunachicks and Babes in Toyland, but this foursome takes a sharp claw to every riot grrrl/foxcore cliché it can shred. Starting with the old one-chord-wonder punk credo, the Aunts add a progression or two, smother it with distortion and top it off with din-singing by either bassist E. Z. Wider (Debbi Dip, aka Connie Champagne) or one of the guitarists, Angel and Sapphire (Terri Wahl and Kerry Davis, aka Louise Lee Outlaw and Taffy Davis). Abrasive as their mix is, the Red Aunts generate a vital energy and humor absent from many indie bands.
From the first shrieks of Drag, the Red Aunts debunk traditional female roles by giving an estrogen-laced kick to such typically testosterone-fueled subjects as sex, cars, booze and vengeful violence. Songs like “Built for a Barstool,” “Hot Rod” and “Lonely Beer Drops” sound like someone’s tonsils are being shaved with shards of glass. There is another side to the band, however, and the Red Aunts do interject a few well-sung tunes: “Lethal Lolita” is a playful tease, while the humorous “Sleeping in the Wet Spot” is inspiring enough for a hum-along. The Aunts best merge their gruff and feminine styles on the powerful “Teach Me to Kill.”
As the title implies, Bad Motherfucken 40 o-z, produced by (then) Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz, is even tougher, with songs like “Die Baby” and “Monster Fucker Mother Trucker.” Although the band is a bit tighter, there’s no substantial change from Drag. Propelled by hard-hitting drummer Cougar (Leslie Ishino, aka Ishino Destroyer), the Aunts careen through their songs, although the bluesy “Ice Tea” almost lets you catch your breath and “Batman a Go-Go,” the band’s catchiest tune, introduces a new wave beat to the atonal crunch.
Mr. Brett again grabs the production reins on #1 Chicken, released on his Epitaph label. The move coincides with the band’s heightened musical prowess, as evidenced on “Rollerderby Queen,” which involves more musical changes than most Red Aunts songs, plus a proper guitar solo and fat, pounding bass. But the band is clearly true to its original tenets: the cover even boasts that the Aunts rip through fourteen songs in 23 minutes. And the sentiments are also the same, with tracks like “When Sugar Turns to Shit,” “Hate” and “Satan,” and lines like “Hit you with my hammer/Hit you till you’re dead/Then I’m gonna cut off/Your motherfucken head” (“Detroit Valentine”). Even when they profess “I’ve got a crush on you” (“Krush”), it’s so shrill you’ve got to figure they’re concealing more than one lethal weapon. #1 Chicken leaves no doubt that these Aunts can bite with a vengeance, but they’d be even more potent with a little less squawking.