...and God said, "Let there be attitude."
Before rock 'n' roll's bloody birth somewhere in the deep, dark jungle; before some savage with a bone in his nose started beating the drum; there was attitude. It's this primordial moxie that makes a band stand out, over and above their prowess, their message, their appearance. You know, balls before beauty.
"All any rock star ever has to know is, if the show's going bad, just pull down your pants and light something on fire," says Aimee Lane, two weeks after joining the now all-female Rochester punk-rock quartet The Purrs. Lane's band mates laugh in agreement. They already know it's true.
The quartet's new, self-titled debut was initially entitled Socially Inept, but an executive decision at GaragePop Records nixed that. "Then we were going to call it Man-aise," says guitarist Jen ("Don't call me Jenny") Davis. "But it was too fattening."
The Purrs is full of hooks, sing-along lyrics, loud everything, with a slightly ovarian perspective. Lyrically, the subject matter touches on topics like having two boyfriends, getting drunk, getting kissed, and getting tattooed.It's a 28-minute, eight-song temper tantrum reminiscent of the slightly radio friendlier '70s, when bands like Eddie and the Hot Rods and Kiss blared from big-ass car stereos dialed into the same station.
Lately, it seems this dirty rock spirit has emerged from its crypt. It's bubbling to the surface again through the curious, capable, and eager hands of the next generation. The torch has been passed.
Guitarist Sara Strusz, bassist Rachel Sinesiou, and drummer Melissa Von Suhr first revved up The Purrs two years ago as an all-girl litter of three, before adding Davis on guitar. The lure of a domestic life called Von Suhr away. She was replaced by Wade Rowley III (a boy, incidentally), who then succumbed to the lure of Guitar Center (after playing on the CD), to be replaced by Lane.
"A mutual friend who likes to drink the milk, after he eats the cereal, out of the bowl," introduced her to the band, Lane says.
These gals play basic, primal music that occasionally gets parked in the garage-rock lot. Today, there are more garage bands than there are garages.
"I don't know why a lot of people are still calling it garage-rock," says Sinesiou. "Garage is like the '60s, The Kinks, stuff like that."
"I think we're trying to be garage rock," supposes Strusz. But they're definitely not trying to be girlie.
Listening to The Purrs with your ass planted in a beanbag chair, face buried in a bong, headphones blasting, it's impossible to tell women are even involved until Strusz opens her mouth. Of course, that shouldn't matter: good music is good music. And attitude is attitude. This band is determined
In the early days, "we were one of those girl bands that sucked," says Strusz. "But [people] were just letting us come back, because we were girls. Luckily, we got better."
"Everybody wants to see a girl band, no matter who the fuck it is or if they can play or not," Strusz continues. The Purrs use their gender to their advantage, occasionally shakin' what the good Lord gave 'em. They may be just a rock 'n' roll band, but they're not afraid to sound the strumpet trumpet.
"Fuck yeah, I exploit it," says Davis, a school teacher. "I'll stand up on the drum and shake my ass." Sometimes, due to the low caliber of rock fans, this can backfire.
"This guy at Water Street Music Hall kept rubbing my leg and trying to lick my boots," Davis says. "He was like, 'Are these real leather? You're hot.' So I kicked him in the head."
"Yeah," chimes in Strusz. "Go to a strip club, asshole. We're rock 'n' roll."
As the recent success of bands like The White Stripes, The Strokes, and Mooney Suzuki attests, back-to-basics, loud 'n' dirty rock 'n' roll is currently in vogue --- not that The Purrs care.
"I like The White Stripes and all that's going on like that," says Sinesiou. But, "there's always room for Poison," Davis adds.
"I love Dime Bag Darryl [of Pantera --- a band Lane claims to have played with]," says Strusz. "He's my idol. I have his autograph on a napkin. It says 'Sara, keep up the rock.'"
Rock music "is starting to get good again," says Sinesiou. "I think we came along at a good time. Rock 'n' roll's gonna be just fine," she says as she shoulders her bass for rehearsal, keeping up the rock.
The Purrs, The Flour City Knuckleheads, and The Boss Martians play Saturday, November 9, at The Bug Jar, 219 Monroe Avenue, at 10 p.m. Tix: $5. 454-2966.