Looking Into It
All Girl Summer Fun Band
It is not yet determined as to whether the All Girl Summer Fun Band will still be together for the Fall release of this record (not usually the game plan), or if they are merely a Summer kind of love. For this project, AGSFB- now a trio (bassist Ari Douangpanya opted out of the band in 2004 to raise her newborn child) have lain eleven songs to disc- full of peppy, girl music- heavy on staunch girlity and but not necessarily light on depth of scope. A guilty pleasure, to be sure- but no more so than that attained by listening to bands such as the Betties (not as low-rent as), the Donnas (deeper than), the Go Gos (heavier than) or even Sleater-Kinney (lighter than, but gaining ground) from time to time (especially S-K early on).
Guitarist Kim Baxter (Cherry Ice Cream Smile) more or less formed the band around 1998 when she approached guitarist/bassist Jen Sbragia of the Softies with a cassette of her band. The two quickly became friends and soon enlisted Douangpanya and Kathy Foster (Thermals, Hutch and Kathy) who was assigned drum duties for the band (she also plays bass). With Douangpanya’s departure, it appears that Sbragia has taken over bass duties (she plays guitar too) with the band- although many songs seem not to have any bass at all.
A few singles, an EP and two albums later, we come to this third recording. Perhaps they should call themselves The All New All Girl Summer Fun Band. Though it is self-evident that such a moniker wouldn’t possibly fit on a poster or a marquee.
The band mostly relies on a crunchy guitar sound, although they do get a little bluesy (“Trajectory”) and even add acoustic guitar (“Lost,” “The Only Ones, “Rewind”) into the mix. But mostly these three women blast away, rocking out majorly, especially on ballsy tracks such as “Plastic Toy Dream” and “This Will Never End.”
“Not The One For Me” relies on a strong guitar hook to replace a hooky chorus, to moderate success. Not a hit, but a good B-side. “Something New” sounds like something the Shaggs would have composed if they had ever learned to really play their instruments and did not have an abusive father. Ah, life! Here again there is not much of a chorus to hang one’s hat upon- but the song is bouncy, with a very interesting guitar interlude in the middle section.
A poppy little number, “Oh No” covers the lyrical ground of many Girl pop bands: “I’ve got a crush on you, but maybe you won’t ever call me again.” A nice guitar solo punctuates the snappy chorus. The aforementioned “Trajectory” is a bit of change up from the straight-ahead, surfy quality of its predecessors- relying on a bit of a swing beat- more relaxed, not as agitated. And “Lost” departs entirely from the format. With frilly acoustic guitars and a bass heavy quality, this song is one that stands out from the others, if only because the arrangement and instrumentation is vastly different. Foster’s drum work is especially appealing here.
The hard-driving “Everything I Need” is a song about being a band, rehearsing in the basement, life in general- and all the things that comprise the struggle in the business of rock and roll. Foster again distinguishes herself with the strong one-three push of her beat.
The acoustic flair of “The Only Ones,” also benefits from a more relaxed beat, sounding something like an early Juliana Hatfield release (as does “Lost,” actually). A sort of solipsistic lyric, fits in well with the “us against the world” stance many “girl“ bands adopt. Think the Go-Gos’ “Can’t Stop The World.” “Rewind” traverses even farther afield- a song about the death of a friend or a lover- with a wonderful flutey keyboard theme soldering the song together. Worthy of Liz Phair, only more sensitive.
The title track, the instrumental “Looking Into It,” is anthemic in its thrusting beat and buzzy lead guitar theme. Not memorable, but appealing. However “Plastic Toy Dream,” is a great rumbling quake of a song that combines all of AGFSB’s strengths into one solid hard-edged ball of rock might. Foster’s tom-heavy drums drive the song, while Baxter’s buzzy guitar head the musical direction. Similarly, “This Will Never End,” relies less on guitar theatrics and more upon the actual power of the song itself, relying on dynamics rather than just straight-ahead momentum. A very good song.
All Girl Summer Fun Band distinguish themselves as capable musicians with a knack for writing catch songs and delivering them with a degree of power and aplomb. While some might be a little simplistic, there is not a bad song on the album- and several (many?) are worthy of repeated listening. A good album, certainly inspiring to any other, younger, girl bands considering a direction and style.