The Donnas

Sharps & Flats is a daily music review in Salon Magazine

By Natasha Stovall
February 11, 1998 1:00AM (UTC)
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Donna A, Donna C, Donna F and Donna R -- aka the Donnas -- are four Bay Area underage chicks who capture the sparks that fly off the spinning wheels of teendom like nobody's business. With their new "American Teenage Rock-n-Roll Machine," they nail the crude lust, unstoppable drive toward mind obliteration and overwhelming desire to RAWK OUT with unbelievably catchy rock 'n' roll: three-chords-no-waiting guitars, chug-a-lug drums and a big bass bottom.

Coming out of the speakers, "ATRNRM" sounds really raw, even tinny, as if it were flowing through some old transistor radio or blown-out car speakers. But the DIY feel is just a cover for some very pro playing. Guitarist Donna R, bassist Donna F and drummer Donna C are tight as can be; their unpolished sound is cultivated, not inevitable.


In all of "ATRNRM's" 10-songs-in-25 minutes, the Donnas never take their eyes off the teenage prize: unadulterated partying, fueled by -- you know it -- sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. "Yeah I'm gonna be outta my mind/Yeah, I'm gonna be out of my head," Donna A sings determinedly on "Outta My Mind" -- "Yeah, I'm gonna be OUT OF IT!" The lyrics are quick, dirty and hilariously to the point. "It's a Saturday night, and I'm looking for some party action/I don't care about getting laid I want some quick and easy satisfaction," roars Donna A on "Rock and Roll Machine." "What you gonna do? Where you gonna go? I ain't into goin' steady/Don't do this, Don't this that/I'll grow up when I'm ready." Her nasal whine is so bratty, so adolescent, it's a shock to hear her get down and dirty, barking commands like "C'mon and stick it in!"

In their powerhouse femininity, the Donnas call to mind two very different "girl groups": Their righteous power and balls-out rock recalls the much-missed Bikini Kill, while their uninhibited sexual fierceness makes them out to be some bizarro version of the Spice Girls. But unlike either group, the Donnas are very much everygirls, without the politics of Bikini Kill or the pumped-up bods and made-up faces of the Spices. Certainly, the fact that the Donnas (all of whom are under 20) picked up instruments and formed a band points to some brand of "empowerment" -- though they'd probably blow a fat wad of cheeba smoke in yer face for suggesting it. The fact that they don't need to make "girl power" their raison d'jtre marks real progress. The Donnas may say they're "17, and already going nowhere," but their kickass music says otherwise.

Natasha Stovall

Natasha Stovall is a regular contributor to Salon.

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