Recording information: RLP Studios (The Morgue Portable Disaster Unit); South Beach Studios.
Photographer: Pat Kennedy.
Le Butcherettes' frontwoman, guitarist, keyboardist, and songwriter Teri Gender Bender (Teri Suarez) remains the sole original member over the band's three albums. The only constant musical collaborator has been producer Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. On A Raw Youth, their collaboration goes for broke. Gender Bender's early underground punk attack -- equally informed by L.A.'s underground tradition and the party music of her native Guadalajara -- has evolved to include new wave, electro, and even mainstream arena rock without conceding a creative inch. Her scathing lyric critiques of patriarchal violence and oppression are even more steely and poetic here than on previous records. "Shave the Pride" takes on the conceits and impotence of hollow, unfocused rage -- "The sight of anger breaks small ginger hopes/Old sores permit your scars to scare me senseless...The size of your rage drowns my urge for lovin'...." -- in a scorching three-chord punk blast. It's followed by "Mallely," whose irresistible pop hook in the vocals and keyboards owes as much to Sammy Hagar-era Van Halen as it does mid-period X. "Sold Less Than Gold" is a bone chiller that melds angular synth and tom-tom-driven new wave danceability to a melody worthy of Jackie DeShannon. Suarez details the plight of women sold into sex slavery or forced into marriages, their bodies merely a commodity for exploitation of male desire: "I see you love me when I'm suffering...push me towards insanity/Beat me, rape me, terrorize my mind/Living in pure misery...." The hypnotic blues riff in "Stab My Back" underscores a chorus that metaphorically equates a knife with a "rusted phallus" before Gender Bender's taut hook claims her own form of justice in the verses that follow. Introduced by a harrowing synth drone, "Witchless C Spot" takes a withering look at love and sex before it explodes with a '70s rock chorus that becomes an anthem of accusation to shame perpetrators of exploitation. Iggy Pop guests on the Spanish-sung "La Uva" (the title translates to "The Grape"), adding his signature slithering growl to the warped side of a carnival tune that evolves into a post-psych garage rocker. Guitarist John Frusciante (Gender Bender's bandmate in Kimono Kult) punctuates her synth vamps with spooky flanged six-string lines and a stinging break. The most expressive instrument on A Raw Youth, however, is Gender Bender's voice. It shifts pitch, utterance, and nuance within each song. In so doing, she imbues the music with meaning that matches her lyrics. If this is the breakout album for this band, it will be because Gender Bender is simply savvier in articulating her vision. There is no band like out there like Le Butcherettes and A Raw Youth proves it. ~ Thom Jurek