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See Betty Rock

The world is a ghetto — especially if you’re in a chick band. When Glendale Latina pop-punk quartet Go Betty Go started to make noise back in 2003, it seemed they could do no wrong. Packing out their weekly residency at Mr. T’s Bowl, landing several live slots on the Mexi-rock showcase LATV and enjoying plenty of ink (including my own extensive profile in these pages), the band had the zealotry, the relentless stick-to-itiveness and the undeniable onstage kapow to make them seem part of some grand cosmic design. Two years later, after a steady ascent — a handful of weirdly devout Web fan sites, almost nonstop national touring (including the Vans Warped Tour), a cash-generating video-game soundtrack commission (Fantastic Four, no less) and a kick-ass new album — Go Betty Go are nonetheless becoming the band that many love to hate. I’ve heard all the reflexive gripes: They’re like a high school band. She can’t sing. Their melodies are mediocre. You only like ’em cuz they’re hot Latinas. (And if the Strokes–Hives–Franz Ferdinand axis resembled David Crosby?) Key detraction: favorable attention based on gender and ethnicity. If the Go gals were worn-down, tatted-up 30-something white broads, would that qualify them for presumptive acceptability? It seems that Go Betty Go — all in their early 20s and variously pumping Mexican, Central and South American blood — are apparently doomed not to qualify for the sort of easy pass bands like, say, Betty Blowtorch or the mostly female Randies get. GBG need to prove more, hit harder, get crazier and be less themselves to pursue their career. It’s a very fucked-up Los Angeles rock & roll pickle.The band’s big mistake was their first release, the aptly titled Worst Enemy —a long-delayed, poorly produced five-song EP. Rather than capturing their brawny, squalling stage sound, it was a tinny, sanitized, mall-scum-slanted product that triumphed only in the quality of the songs.Now, though, the band have cooked up Nothing Is More, an engaging stack of originals that drops heavy doses of mad punk fang-baring and ardent sugar-pop romance.The album gleams with sheer 1979 U.K. guitar, calling up Give ’Em Enough Rope–era Clash and the propulsive metal chug of the Ruts; Nicolette Vilar’s vocals at times even mirror those of X Ray Spex’s Poly Styrene — though it’s doubtful that Go Betty Go have even heard the latter pair of bands. (Last time I checked, drummer Aixa Vilar had no idea who the Zeros were.) Theirs is an odd mixture, part nostalgic research but mostly an instinct for action; guitarist ?Betty Cisneros listens to Missy Elliott, not X. Featuring several live staples, some crafty new pop numbers and a couple of strikingly ambitious and entertaining romps — “We’re From L.A.” and “The Pirate Song” — Nothing Is More reaches outward even as it follows the idiosyncratic contours the band have always pursued. The fractured from-the-gut lyrics (“Down are the times when I feel like shit”), the en español numbers’ strikingly unconventional structures and Nicolette’s offbeat, steam-heated phrasing all combine for an original tone that reinvigorates the trad punk stylings Go Betty Go work with. The most important aspect — that they are a frighteningly tight, sisterhood-synchronized band — ultimately wipes out all the bitching. This is rock & fucking roll. It’s supposed to sound like a high school band. GO BETTY GO | Nothing Is More (Side One Dummy)