She's So Control
By: Eric Greenwood
This Olympia, Washington trio brings an unadulterated DIY aesthetic back to indie rock. Inspired by early eighties punk/new wave icons like The Go Go’s and X-Ray Spex as well as nineties underground luminaries like Slant 6 and Heavens To Betsy, the Subdebs play minimalistic indie punk with a raw edge. Their name refers to all girls who are outcasts in the whole societal debutante scene (i.e. the rejects, the punks, the brains, the tomboys, etc.). The songs have angular arrangements with driving bass lines and jagged guitar melodies. The dual female vocals are bratty and antagonizing: “I can write a song using 2 notes/U can ask me how long I’ve been playing.”
Despite the flippant subject matter of several songs the music has a dark tone that is distinctly reminiscent of the early punk movement in England led by bands like Wire and Gang of Four. This music is far less accomplished than those bands, but that’s the bulk of its charm. The melodies and harmonies reveal an innocence and simplicity that cut right through the attitude to uncover a knack for memorable and catchy pop songs. The Subdebs retain their charm even when they get pushy most unlike some of their early nineties counterparts like Bratmobile and Bikini Kill, both of whom disintegrated under the weight of their own overbearing preachiness.
The Subdebs flaunt their amateurish musical prowess, but any way you look at it their songwriting has a timeless and classic quality. This record could have been made in the fifties as easily as today. You’ll be singing along after a few listens. The production has a sixties garage band feel thanks to Dub Narcotic’s Calvin Johnson. The songs are packed with catchy choruses, scaling guitar lines and jerky rhythms that give them a punk edge. “Give It Up”, “Don’t Mess With Us”, and “No Good Man” are standouts that encompass The Subdebs’ pure rocking energy and panache. She’s So Control is the type of record that makes it easy to see how indie rock caught on in the first place.