Hands Off Gretel – Burn the Beauty Queen

Posted: 9 September 2016 in Albums
Tags: , ,

16th September 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Hands Off Gretel, formed only a year or so back, have already received frothing endorsements from Shirley Manson, Kate Nash and Linda Perry. The primary focus of such enthusiasm is nineteen-year-old Lauren Tate, who draws her inspiration from the likes of Brody Dalle and Courtney Love. It’s perhaps easy to forget that Courtney was, at one time, a formidable and fierce front woman: the first to Hole albums, Pretty on the Inside in particular, were raw, confrontational and really screamed home just tough women in rock could be.

Described as ‘a powerhouse of creativity’, Tate’s not only the band’s frontwoman and songwriter, but she also designs the band’ merchandise and is responsible for their videos, album artwork and photography. Some may say that it’s an example of control freakery, but bands tend to need someone with ambition, focus and (metaphorical) balls to make things happen, as musicians are, all too often, slack fuckers.

Without wishing to denigrate the contributions of the other band members – Burn the Beauty Queen is clearly a collective effort – and the sonic impact is more than a solo effort.

They come snarling out of the traps with high octane grunge-rager ‘Always Right’ and as much as it’s reminiscent of early Hole, L7, Babes in Toyland and Solar Race are equally a fitting comparison. There’ so much attitude here, and so much fire.

‘Always Miserable’ is so stripped back as to be no-fi to begin, but then halfway through its seven-minutes, it positively erupts in driving riffage and overloading guitar assault and vitriol. ‘bash my brains out, I’m so bored,’ Lauren sneers and hollers nihilistically amidst a tempest of driving guitars. She’s pissed off, alright. And over the course of the album, she vents on alienation, angst and (self) loathing with raw-throated rage, while the musical backing works the classic quiet / loud dynamic perfectly. And when they slow the pace and tone down the overdrive, as on ‘Little Man’ (and again, I’m reminded of Solar Race here), it’s stark and bleak as hell. It also provides a neat counterbalance to the three-chord stomp-and-holler tracks like ‘Oh Shit’, and if single cut ‘Teethin’’ is their concession to a pop track, it’s in the tradition of, say ‘Violet’ or Nymphs at their best (whatddaya mean, you’ve never heard of Nymphs? Sort it out!).

If Burn the Beauty Queen sounds like it’s from the school of ’94, that’s because what goes around comes around, and frankly, the whole pop/punk, post-hardcore and limp, packaged angst of what counts as ‘alternative’ for most of ‘the kids’ these days lacks guts and conviction. Paramore? Fuck that. The fact Lauren Tate is half my age suggests it’s not my nostalgia for the grunge era that makes me prick up my ears at Burn the Beauty Queen, but the fact there’s a new generation tapping into that primal release that only three chord and complete loathing of everything can give. And Burn the Beauty Queen is a great album: it’s got the rawness and authenticity that made grunge exciting. The fact that Tate looks the part will no doubt help Hands Off Gretel get exposure they might otherwise not have done, but to be clear, it’s the music – the power and the passion that crackles from every note – which is what makes Burn the Beauty Queen an essential album.

 

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 14.32.12

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s