Julie Edwards and Lindsey Troy are making explicitly feminist music, but there’s almost nothing feminine about it. The Los Angeles duo known as Deap Vally employ a sound and style that’s been generally tagged as “masculine” — mostly just because a good proportion of women choose not to make this kind of music. Troy on electric guitar and Edwards on drums (who met in a crocheting class in Los Angeles) receive comparisons to Jack White and Led Zeppelin on a regular basis. Perhaps the patriarchy is at fault for forgetting their more obvious predecessor though, the Wilson sisters of Heart.
Although Troy and Edwards aren’t biologically related like the Wilsons, their music bears the same seamless defiance and blends two individuals through the channel of a single emotion. The aggression and dominance of Heart’s best known tracks “Barracuda” and “Crazy On You” is mirrored in Deap Vally’s debut through songs like “Creepfile” and “Walk of Shame”. Sistrionix is the full-length followup to this year’s earlier EP, Get Deap!, and yet, despite their obvious skill and fascinating lyrical tilt, the record can be very one-note.
With its slick millennial wordplay, the title addresses a Victorian-era concept of exaggerated antics of mentally unwell women, but subverts the term and ropes in the concept of sisterhood. The album name sums up how their lyrical content blatantly challenges concepts of femininity and sexuality. “Lies”, “Your Love”, and “Baby I Call Hell” all give a taste of the fury that a woman scorned and mistreated can muster. Dramatic renditions and exaggerated calls for attention aren’t grounds for smelling salts or psychiatric care here. Instead, they challenge the behavior that our society expects of women. Their approach is also drastically different from another girl group who just released their debut, the truly biological sister trio of HAIM. But while most of HAIM’s debut Days Are Gone assumes the blame for relational failure and assumes a passive viewpoint, Sistrionix snarls and claws in response to abuse.
The album doesn’t just veer off the beaten path when it comes to romantic relationships, though. “Gonna Make My Own Money” mocks the idea of the trophy wife and instead asserts self-reliance. “End of the World” challenges modernity’s norms, calling the entire system into question. “Bad For My Body” celebrates dabbling in rebellious insolence. All these concepts feel incredibly refreshing, feminism from two model-pretty women who can rock out like their classic rock forerunners. But, unlike Heart or even HAIM, the music stays in one place, relies on one sound. Shot with static, Sistrionix fails to jump above a bluesy, snarling rock that’s become almost commonplace — even if it’s not normally played by women.
While the record is still enjoyable, particularly due to a strain of riot grrrl-infused audacity and vociferous demands for respect, the sonics fail to achieve much progress and rely far too often on tried-and-true riffs and structures. Album closer “Six Feet Under”, a roiling nine minute track that details a relationship’s decline, comes the closest to branching out, with nearly-gospel harmonies woven into the vicious guitar lines. Despite the stylistic stagnancy, the album is an enjoyable listen, establishing Troy and Edwards as talented musicians with a strong-minded perspective on women’s place in society.
Essential Track: “Gonna Make My Own Money”, “Walk of Shame”