Riot Grrrls Revived
On their Facebook, Gal Pals describes themselves as a guitar and drum duo that write pop songs and hail from Austin, Texas. It is that simple. Their debut full-length record, Velvet Rut, takes that simplicity and stretches like a screeching guitar note.
Being an all-girl group that actually plays instruments, they are bound to get comparisons to the last movement that featured female musicians: the nineties riot grrl scene, which in its hey-day burrowed its simplicity from the punks that were harassing them and imbued the music with feminist lyrics.
These comparisons would not be ill founded, as they take the best qualities from the scene’s most prominent groups. They have the kiss-off delivery of Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna—both in vocal delivery and in feminist sensibility, as shown on “Here’s to the Gals:” “Here’s to the girls / They don’t have to say please.” But, they take their sense of pop song crafting from the recently reformed, Sleater-Kinney.
A perfect example their excellent ability to craft a pop song is the second track and best song on the album, “Ex-Marionette.” The dirty, rough and jangling guitar and jumping tambourine are in the forefront of the song—as they are on all of the songs—combined with sassy lyrics like: “If you don’t call me back / I won’t have a heart attack” and “I got no strings / No ties to anyone / So I have fun” and the shouting “Hey! Hey!” makes for a down right perfect pop song.
While the song structure is perfect for maximum enjoyment, it is also the structure that they use throughout the entire album with little change in tempo or guitar sound. This can make an album, whose songs all run under three minutes and thirty seconds, seem a little tired and drawn out. This makes it so astonishing when they do something even marginally different, as on “Baker’s Son,” where they begin the song completely accapella. It is a cohesive album, but it would be interesting to see them stretch themselves into different song styles with a wider musical palette.
And yet, there is something about their delivery, their gumption, their energy that makes you like it in spite of its lack of diversity. They seem like girls you would want to stay up all night with, end up at a twenty-four hour diner and then have the night immortalized in song. So, while they could stretch themselves more, it’s a fun debut that shows the duo can write a pop song. Simply put, it’s rock n roll fun.