Solar Culture, Friday, Sept. 17

By now, it's well settled that chicks can indeed rock under the right circumstances. There were fits and starts, sure (Fuzzbox, anyone? Or how about 4 Non-Blondes?), but with the advent of a new generation of girl-groups like Sahara Hotnights (and, ahem, the Donnas) ably following in the tradition of the Runaways, plus the brilliance of artists like PJ Harvey, never again will anyone win an argument to the contrary.

There's something inherently pleasing when women play great rock music that just isn't there when men do it, no matter in which sex camp one might individually fall. This overtone--call it grace or beauty or innocence or something--was on full display at Solar Culture Gallery this past Friday, as four women known collectively as Electrelane rocked their way through an hour-long set consisting of material culled mainly from their Too Pure debut, The Power Out.

The four women of Electrelane made up for their (not terribly) evident lack of polish by simply rocking. Those familiar with their label and its other offerings can glean some idea of the sound--droning and shoe-gazy dirge-like guitar swirls dominating what is essentially simple pop. It's easy to say they have a lot in common with the aforementioned PJ Harvey, but Electrelane is not so strident and overtly sexual. A better comparison is to the defunct and underappreciated Th'Faith Healers, who were Too Pure labelmates with PJ Harvey.

This is abundantly clear on songs like "Take the Bit Between Your Teeth," an urgent, bittersweet bit of chanting noise pop that was an Electrelane dead-ringer for Th'Faith Healers' "Moona-Ina-Joona." Similarly, the understated plaint of "Birds" had an atmospheric simplicity that seems to be a Too Pure signature. But Electrelane hit the set's apex with their cover of none-too-pure Leonard Cohen's political commentary "The Partisan," concealing Cohen's lyrical bluntness behind layers of guitar drone.

The second half the show had long wordless stretches, during which the group focused on jamming out to the exclusion of everything else. "Only One Thing Is Needed" began as a simple keyboard-based pop song but grew into a lengthy treatise that seemingly sought the answer to the musical question, What Would Sonic Youth Do? "On Parade" had a simple, Cure-like locomotive beat that propelled Electrelane toward the song's rocking conclusion on the lyric, "You let her go!"

Or else it was "You've gotta go!" appropriately enough, because it was toward the end. After one encore, the lights came up, and sadly, a spell was broken.

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