Music, Singles, The Revue — November 20, 2017 at 5:10 am

The Darts – ‘Me.Ow’ (album review)

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Once upon a time – and not that long ago actually – many within the music industry and even fans held the belief that “girls can’t rock”. The notion that a group of women could unleash explosive rock ‘n roll was unthinkable to many. It has been only a little over forty years since The Runaways changed the music landscape, but even to this day all-female rock bands still don’t get the same respect as their male colleagues. For instance, most people know who The Dune Rates and The Black Lips are, but few likely have heard about Death Valley Girls or The Darts, the latter who would give any psychedelic garage-rock outfit a run for their money.

The Phoenix and Los Angeles-based quartet are one of the great bands around and one of the most underappreciated. Their self-titled debut album was an eye-opener, as its thirteen intense songs yielded an experience that can only be described as a mind warp. Less than a year later, they unveil their sophomore LP, Me.Ow, which is the equivalent of being run over by a steam roller. Whereas as The Darts was intense from the get go, Me.Ow is a more diversified record that sees the four women reinterpret and master over four decades of rock music.

Like a heathen emerging from the dead of night, “The Cat’s Meow” opens the album with a dark and daunting number that sounds right out of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Front woman Nicole Laurenne’s vocals are deliciously spooky, and her organ playing belongs in an abandoned, haunted church. Her lyrics, though, are playful, as if she’s teasing us.

“Take me to the alley and show me around.
I’m on the prowl with the coolest cat in town.”

Equally creepy are “Strange Days” and “Slay Me”. The former feels like one is falling through the rabbit hole but landing in Beetlejuice‘s miniature world. On the latter, Michelle Balderrama‘s crushing guitar stars, as it echoes the dripping menace of a woman seeking revenge. Darkness, meanwhile, encompasses the grueling “Gonna Make You Love”, which isn’t a love song by any means. Instead, it’s The Darts conducting an exorcism on someone consumed by hatred and anger. (Maybe they could play this song to the current occupant of The White House./0

Although the band master creepy psych-rock, they are at their best when they dial up the addiction and create hip-shaking numbers perfect for a late autumn dance party. The shout-out-loud rocker “Don’t Freak Me Out” is the ideal opener for a live show. Riki Watson’s militaristic drumming leads the fist-pumping assault while all four cry out to someone to push forward and not give up. The propulsive rhythms of bassist Christina Nunez and drummer Watson drive the anthemic “The Generator”, which is akin to the boisterous rock ‘n roll of The Runaways. And like the great rock pioneers, The Darts deliver an encouraging message for all of us to take control and be the spark plugs in this world.

A jitterbug vibe percolates in the catchy “Not My Baby”. As the awesome combo of sizzling guitar and psych-blues organs buzz through the air, Laurenne describes an ex as a snake yet she cannot shake him. A psychedelic funk show is revealed on the immensely addictive “I Made A Wish”, which features some terrific chest-pounding rhythms.

Then there is “Caught In The Devil’s Game”, which is the album’s highlight. If there was any question regarding whether these four women could rock, this song removes any doubt. A Led Zeppelin vibe hovers in the song with even Laurenne’s vocals taking on a Robert Plant-like tone and Balderrama channeling her inner Jimmy Page. It’s only just one song, but it reveals the enormous talent of a band to whom people need to start paying close attention. A band who will one day be gracing the marquees of many of the finest rock venues across the globe.

Me.Ow is out now via Dirty Water Records UK. Purchase or stream it on Bandcamp, Spotify, and iTunes/Apple Music.

The Darts are Rikki Watson (drums/vocals), Christina Nunez (bass/vocals), Nicole Laurenne (vocals/organ/keys), and Michelle Balderrama (guitar/vocals). The band is currently on tour, and dates and information are available here.

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Featured photo by Photo by Kelly Gordon Sahr.

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