Ladies Night Out: female artists come on strong


Twenty-five years ago, women in music were an anomaly. These days, it seems there are more women at the microphone than men. Two of the women who’ve helped pave the way for this crop of sirens, Tori Amos and Tracy Chapman have new discs just hitting the shelves, and this week’s two-part Pop Stops (which will continue in next week’s First Look) takes a listen to some of the artists Amos, Chapman, Sarah McLachlan and others have inspired.


My Fever Broke

They’re not newcomers, but since it’s Halloween, I had to mention Rasputina – a "psuedo-classical, hard-core, ‘positive-goth’ cello band" made up of three women cellists and a drummer, who have been around in various incarnations for more than a decade. Singer-songwriter Melora Creager "remains constant and forthright in her mission to make funny, depressing music with nothing more than cellos, singing and electricity." The band had its closest brush with fame five years ago when Marilyn Manson remixed their song "Transylvanian Concubine" for Columbia Records. These days they’re on a smaller label, but still making some of the quirkiest cello-rock around (OK, maybe the only cello-rock around). Creager has a solid sense of the bizarre, and if you missed their show last night at Chicago’s Metro, you should definitely seek out their latest releases on Instinct ( for your Halloween musical experience. The My Fever Broke EP offers a sampling of tracks from their last album, including three different remixes of "State Fair," which, in its first incarnation here, bears a lot of resemblance to the rock-solid fuzz-bass remix that Manson did for the band. The EP also includes the techno-fast weirdness of "AntiqueHighHeelRedDollShoes" and a CD-ROM video of a performance of the weighty "My Orphanage" from New York’s Knitting Factory which unfortunately doesn’t reveal Creager’s offbeat stage humor.


The Donnas - Spend the Night The Donnas
Spend The Night

Picking up the mantle of one of the original all-girl rock bands, The Runaways (which spawned a future Bangle – Michael Steele – and the solo careers of Joan Jett and Lita Ford), California’s The Donnas crank out classic Hollywood three-chord bar rock with a strut and a heavy tease-factor on Spend the Night. Opening with "It’s On the Rocks," a cowbell-pounding curtain call for a relationship, the disc careens into its single, "Take It Off," where the tables are turned and the girls are calling for the guy to perform. Sex, drinking and partying are the key themes of Spend the Night, which includes crisp, crunchy guitar jams like "All Messed Up," "Pass It Around," "Take Me To The Backseat" and the amusing "Too Bad About Your Girl" (in which a girl sets her eye on a one-night-stand prospect who’s already with someone). The guitars are set on high-octane jam at all times, the harmonies are solid and the tease factor is as high as the late-great unsung L.A. metal heroes The Pandoras from a decade ago. The girls have been cutting their teeth on bubblegum party rock for a few years now, ( several singles and a couple previous albums came out on Lookout Records in the latter half of the ‘90s) but this is their first major label release.

Check out The Donnas live, tomorrow night (11/1) at Chicago’s Metro.


Martina Sorbara - The Cure For Bad Deeds Martina Sorbara
The Cure for Bad Deeds

Nettwerk is the Canadian label that first brought us Sarah McLachlan, and has been trying to break a female artist of similar stature ever since. Tara MacLean was one of their more recent discoveries, and sounded a lot like McLaughlin in her layered delicate arrangements and vocals. Martina Sorbara starts The Cure for Bad Deeds with a very McLachlan/MacLean style song; "Bonnie and Clyde" opens with gentle piano, melancholy strings and aching vocals and then brings in dramatic throbbing drums and a powerful chorus. But as the album moves on, Sorbara reveals that her true influence is more in the folkie Jewel camp. There are lots of acoustic guitar and acoustic piano ballads on Cure that leave Sorbara plenty of room to croon in a sing-song, easy listening style that makes for a personal, relaxing listen. And in "Eggs Over Easy" she demonstrates that she has a solid flair for loungey jazz a la MacLean’s "Red."