By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Hey! (Hey!) You! (You!)
I wanna be your boyfriend!
I’m trying to say I wanna be your
Number one . . .
The only fault of the song is that it was released by a power-pop band in the late ’70s. If it had been sung by some teen idol — or a girl — it might have been huge. (This seems to be the curse of pure, full-on wussy power pop: The mainstream American listener is uncomfortable with a group of grown men playing sugary, romantic rock & roll. It’s too challenging to American instincts about masculinity and rock & roll. In a different way, glam rock suffers the same fate here.)
Interestingly, power pop does very well when served up by girls. So maybe it’s fitting that the Rubinoos should be ripped off by a Canadian chick. She probably does “rock” harder than them, after all — in her way. And I’m not saying her big dumb “Girlfriend” isn’t catchy. It’s crazy catchy. It’s got the chorus from the Rubinoos’ song going for it, after all. But it’s also bad catchy. “Girlfriend” — co-written by Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald — is an example of pop smarts and bubblegum skillz used toward dark, nefarious ends. It’s not a positive, life- and love-affirming pop song. It’s also not a stylishly bitchy song. Instead, “Girlfriend” is a scary pop Frankenstein. It takes the tough-girl trappings of the girl group era — and even multitracks Avril’s voice to suggest a girl gang — then adds a dash of twisted faux–“riot grrrl” fake-feminist messaging: essentially, “I rock, but other girls suck!” All this is poured into old-fashioned, catchy-ass pop structures to make what seems like a girl-power summer anthem, but is actually an anti-girlish stone drag. And talk about hyper super compression. Play Avril’s “Girlfriend” on iTunes against the Rubinoos’ “Boyfriend,” and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
Oh, power pop. When will you ever win?
? HAIL THE CONQUERING BANGLES: Like I said, girls do better selling power pop to the masses. Witness the Bangles, the wonderful Bangles, who embraced and channeled the spirit of power pop in a fabulously unique — and uniquely commercial — way. Oh, the harmonies, the wistful minors, the hopeful key changes, the knowing, ever-romantic lyrics. The Bangles, who were (and are) a real band, and wrote most of their music, represent the real power of girls together. Even on their earliest recordings, they presented a kind of feminine dignity and pop sophistication that may have been appreciated less than their good looks and radio-friendly hooks (I was certainly too young to grasp the fullness of what they were doing in the early ’80s). But as a grown woman, I find a world of inspiration in their work (and I also appreciate the way they carried the torch of SoCal harmony — inherited from the Byrds, the Mamas and the Papas, Fleetwood Mac, et al. — with such panache). Good news: The Bangles will be performing live at House of Blues tonight (Thursday, July 26). Then in August, they’ll release a concert DVD — which promises to feature candid band interviews and suchlike. It’s good to know they’re together and happy — and still rocking.?
The Bangles perform Thurs., July 26, at House of Blues.