The Upshot: With ‘60s garage well represented, alongside late ‘50s, early ‘60s sock hop/soda shop pop ballads and torch songs, the duo brings a new freshness to the slightly stale genre of contemporary garage rock.
BY BARRY ST. VITUS
Here we have the Brown sisters, Chelsea and Justine. I can’t speak to them actually being twins, but they are both joined to the hip, Siamese style, to rock ‘n’ roll, and playing at it for almost a dozen years. Raised outside L.A. in Riverside, their parents fed them a steady diet of stuff like the Beatles and the Kinks, and the girls dutifully taking violin and piano lessons. Later, they fell under the spell of punksters like the Buzzcocks, Ramones and the Donna’s, and started playing gigs at their high school and small venues, with Chelsea on guitar and Justine on drums. Calling themselves The Scandells, they opened for acts like The Thermals and Thee Makeout Party, (where they met Burger Records founders Sean and Lee) and made a limited-release album.
Skipping ahead several years, the girls knocked around Europe and schooled briefly in Florence, pondering their future in music and writing when they had time. Back stateside in 2010, they released a 6-song EP, played more gigs around SoCal, then cranked out an album with Don Bolles (45 Grave, The Germs) producing. 2012 found them touring with Peter Case and Paul Collins, Matthew Sweet, and later, touring in Japan.
Late last year found them putting together Limbo with producer Chris Woodhouse (Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall,) and rolling out on Burger. They got the attention of the folks producing Last Call with Carson Daly, and were recently featured on two different nights, to a large crowd of adoring (mostly female) fans at Burger-A-Go-Go. No surprise there, as much of their music speaks to romance, betrayal, heartbreak, etc. but, it’s the way they deliver it that’s so outstanding. For anyone who digs The Muffs, (early) Pandora’s, the Daisy Chain or Courtney Barnett, there’s a lot to like. With ‘60s garage well represented, in an interesting twist, so is late ‘50s, early ‘60s sock hop/soda shop pop ballads and torch songs, i.e. Connie Francis, Leslie Gore and Diane Renay, and, to my ears, just about as good as some of those classics. Chelsea has a real affinity for capturing the sound of that era in her songwriting, as well as bringing new freshness to the slightly stale genre of garage rock.
Other classic R&R influences show up in numbers like “Fire,” with it’s thumping Bo Diddley beat, and sweet Everly Brothers harmonies are brought to mind on “So Funny.” Other flashbacks to the era include “Dreamin’,” “Juju,” with its teen angst, and “Our World,” which would be eligible for ‘last dance’ at the mixer in the school cafeteria. “Stop & Go” stands alone as a playful indie-pop number. Justine marks her songwriting debut, as well as the vocals and playing all the instruments on “Helpless” and the lovely “Florence,” reminiscent of The Muffs. Courtney Barnett fans will love the similarities to her on “Demons” and “Ouija.”
The sisters play as a 4-piece with different backup players on about every project, maybe making this the world’s longest band audition. This time around Andy Moran is on keyboards and guitar, and Michael Rey, who has been with them a couple of years, doing bass duties. Anyway, as this album shows, the hits just keep on-a comin,’ as the girls keep cranking out well-crafted songs and gaining a bigger following with every release, with Limbo being their fourth and arguably best batch yet.
DOWNLOAD: “ Fire,” “Demons” and “Ouija.”