Last week Art Fag Recordings released Cry Out Loud the debut full-length from Las Robertas, a sun-drenched-noisy-all-girl trio from Costa Rica. The record is 10 songs long and it’s longer than half an hour, but shorter than 31 minutes. It sounds like you might expect it to — crashing cymbals, buzzsaw guitars, layered, echoing vocals… I go back and forth in my feelings re: contemporary garage rock. Most of the time, I think it’s boring, hollow sounding, and overdone. I’m not especially interested in current garage-style bands &, more often than not, just don’t pay any attention to them. I guess that Hipster Runoff called Las Robertas “‘the final piece’ in commodifying the genre of ‘female garage rock bands,’” and in some ways I can get behind that, but in others I think it’s important to push back on that statement.
I recently finished reading Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution by Sara Marcus. While I had mixed feelings about the book overall, one of the ways it succeeded was in reminding me of the importance of recognizing the challenges that women making music in a “traditionally male” genre often face. (And, to a larger extent, the challenges that women musicians in general are confronted by on a daily basis.) I think that garage is one of those genres that tends toward being male dominated (for lack of better phrasing), but lately there’s been a shift in that. I’m hearing more and more all-girl garage bands, which is cool, but sadly, most of these groups don’t strike me. I may listen to an album or a few songs and think, “Oh, that was nice,” but I’m rarely motivated to listen again or to dig deeper.
So, here is where I stand with the Las Robertas LP — Cry Out Loud is growing on me. At first listen, I wasn’t exactly wowed. There is an overwhelming sense of sameness between songs. For me, it’s a kind of sameness that isn’t exactly suggestive of a pervasive aesthetic or a desire to create an album that moves seamlessly between songs… Instead, it’s just sort of… the same. (This “sameness” is usually what prevents me from enjoying garage rock in general.) But, I’m on my third listen now (I’m really, really trying not to write this album off, especially since I have a copy of it coming in the mail) and what I’m finding is that there are some great moments in this record. Repeated listening helps to give you a sense for the way the album feels and, slowly but surely, individual songs begin to emerge (“In Between Buses” and “The Curse” are especially striking.)
If you’re a fan of girl garage in the vein of Vivian Girls and/or ramshackle homemade pop, this album is not a hard sell. You will like it! It is that simple. If you are not a die-hard fan of these things, this might not catch you right away. It might grow on you slowly. It might not grow on you at all. It’s easy to write groups off, especially all-girl groups working within male dominated genres. It’s easy to choose not to give something a second or a third chance, but it’s hard to predict what albums will do, so I recommend giving this time and space to grow on you.
“V for You,” Las Robertas
Cry Out Loud is available from Art Fag on cassette, CD, and LP. You can stream some tracks from the album on Las Robertas’ Bandcamp and MySpace pages, you can also (links below.)