Is Civet the greatest female rock group since the Runaways?
Their official bio calls them, “the hottest all-girl rock n’ roll band (both literally and figuratively) to erupt from the Los Angeles rock scene since Joan Jett and Lita Ford formed The Runaways.” Liza Graves, the Orange Country band’s singer/guitarist adds, “We truly wanted to fill the void we saw, because tough all-girl bands were few and far between. [Civet] show people that girls can be real and play [ . . . ] balls-out rock n’ roll, dressing how you want, saying what you want, doing what you want and being a role model.”
Now, even if we agree to use the loaded phrase “tough all-girl bands” as a genre (and any such classification promises controversy), were the Runaways its greatest practitioners and are Civet its latest ones?
Since the Runaways groundbreaking work, we’ve heard a thousand all-women bands that have been kick-ass role models for rockers, male and female alike. Even the briefest round-up has to include ‘80s new wave British heavy metal band Girlschool (who kept company with Motorhead for fuck’s sake), Japan’s Shoenen Knife (a.k.a. the Osaka Ramones) or another L.A. band, L7 (whose Donita Sparks out-punked everyone by throwing a used tampon at a mud-slinger during the Reading Festival).
Then, amongst the many current contenders for the XX chromosome rock n’ roll crown (it ain’t a tiara, dammit), you can be sure that neither Californian arena-rock wannabes the Donnas, nor Australian pop-punks extraordinaire the Spazzys, would surrender the title without shedding some blood.
But an album still has to be judged on its own aural merits, separated from history and hype.
So, are Civet the genuine article, or as they put it, “Femme Fatale Punk Rock?”
From the growling vocals, to the pounding guitar, to the blitzkrieg rhythm section, this is one tough record. Album opener, “Alibis,” is a statement of purpose; it’s tuneless, vengeful thrash that lays down the rules hard. Three seconds later and the ripping single “Son of a Bitch” shows they can be catchy and vengeful. Later, on “All I Want,” co-written with Hellcat Records boss and Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong, the band takes up some pop tricks, before the raging full-on “Bad Luck” kicks the pop out of the sack like a regretted one-night-stand. Finally, in the fist-pumping closing track, “Hell Hath No Fury,” Graves yells, “Hell hath no fury like . . . me!” stealing back a line from Shakespeare to create an anthem for everyone who’s ever been pissed off, regardless of gender.
Based on this evidence, does Civet yet have a great rock n’ roll album in them?