Judging from the song titles and playwright/songwriter/activist Gina Young’s shaved head on the CD cover one immediately sniffs femme-core of some sort but I already suspected as much being familiar with her debut album Intractable. Subject material on She’s So Androgynous remains the same: woven tales of political disgust, alienation, heartbreak, hatred for large, predatory corporate conglomerations and anti-war sentiments. Unlike her last LP, however, Gina displays a wide range of abilities and tricks on this effort, perhaps as a result of a full(er) band and several special appearances.
The band (yes, it’s actually a collective of musicians) breaks the ice with a short introduction and a couple of rowdy nuggets of chunky-punky indie rock, not unlike Team Dresch or Sleater Kinney. But this energetic side more or less comes to an abrupt halt, never to appear again on the rest of the album. ‘An Open Letter To The President’ is just that, a seething diatribe aimed at the current administration, George W. in particular, amidst a cadenced drum beat and guitar riff. Young apparently refused to print the lyrics in the liner notes due to some backlash in the political community, claiming that haughty conservatives will ‘have to listen to the song in its entirety and transcribe it for’ themselves. You go girl.
Sometimes Gina’s lyrics are ridiculously bland and passe. See ‘Lou’s Song’ where she sings ‘sometimes I wake up in the night and I just hate my fucking life’ delivered in a terribly melodramatic manner. Ew. Normally I pay more attention to the actual music than the lyrics but there has to be a more interesting way to express the concept of loathing one’s life. However, this song stands up on 3 feet if you were to only pay attention to the fantastic jittery cello work provided by Madigan Shive. Wow. ‘I Picture You’ finds Ms. Young at her most folky and Difranco-esque in vocal delivery (you’d think it was an entirely different person singing) and subtle picked guitar lines. She coos sweetly on ‘Punkrockdyke’ while a friend, Marissa Ragonese, waxes a free-form passage in the background. Somehow they manage to pull this off without sounding like a horseradish and jelly sandwich even though they each touch on completely different subjects – Gina sings about her concern and love for an old friend, Marissa lays on a political rant. Odd stuff. The best track on the album, ‘My Generation’, is saved for near the end of the album and serves as a political manifesto for the current leftist state. Think of almost any rally cry leading up to the Iraq War and ’04 election and it’s touched upon here – anti-complacency, convenience over sacrifice (cell phones and the boob tube take a beating), Bush’s blaring shortsightedness and inefficiency, the Carlyle Group & Halliburton et al. Sure, nothing new to extract if you are the least bit politically-conscious but at least you are assured of Gina’s conviction and passion by the overall tone and presentation of the song.
Sometimes she’s really on, other times she fails miserably, see the abovementioned lyrical faux pas (there are more) or ‘Cuts’ with its half-rapped/half-bansheed breakdown. Ugh. She’s So Androgynous is certainly one of the more interesting queercore/dyke rock albums I’ve heard in recent years though I do not expect this to be appealing to anyone put off by the genre as a whole. It appears Gina will be playing out on the Warped tour this year and that might garner her more attention. Nevertheless, this album is truly an all or nothing affair.