When the women-led Tucson band Alien Jane blends alternative, grunge, punk and proto-metal in the ol' concrete mixer, the back-to-basics rock sound it produces is aggressive but catchy. It's a work-boot kick in the ass, but with a refreshing female sensibility, thanks to the leadership of lead singer Michelle Urban and guitarist-vocalist Cristina Manos.
The 3 1/2-year-old Alien Jane was an all-gals act until about six months ago, when guitarist John Gonzales, bassist Ken Dietz and drummer Dave Barger joined the group, and that's the lineup on this nine-song debut CD. Hard rock without pretension is the name of the game, and elements of The Runaways, Pretenders and Pat Benatar bubble up in the compositions and Urban's vocals. The lyrics, written by Manos and Urban, move from a sense of holistic self to a healthy sexuality to a pissed-off assertiveness.
Exceptions to the strutting and riffing include "Is It Good?" which, with its scratchy funk-metal wah-wah guitars, flirts with a hard-rock style of dub, and "Freaky Satisfaction," a dip into funky rock.
When the band injects quirky keyboard wiggles into the guitar melodies on "Dead Man," the results are decidedly new wave, and not unpleasantly so, which contrasts nicely with Urban's bawdy rant and angry challenge of, "What are you going to do about it?" Conversely, she sings sweetly in the soul-searching musing of the power ballad "Days of Light," which is seasoned with chiming, middle-of-the-road pop hooks.
Alien Jane aren't out to change the world; they just want to rock their corner of it.