If you ever questioned the notion that there is something very wrong with our current society, and that you have the power to make a difference, the new album “Slit,” by Punk Rock trio Barb Wire Dolls, will be the solidifying impetus of that thought. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the photos below, from their recent performance at the R-Bar NYC, speak at a volume to turn sound-proof foam into ashes. Lead singer Isis Queen’s voice is audibly arsenic: a full megaton blast of vocal conviction. Everything you hear, and how it’s conveyed will confirm any suspicion you may have, about things in our global societies not adding up . . . but the good news is, we have a voice again – and it originates almost 6000 miles from the roots of Punk Rock music to find its way back onto our city’s pavement as Pyn Doll, Krash Doll, and Isis Queen: The Barb Wire Dolls.
A great recording is only paralleled by an equally powerful stage presence and truthful artist identity. These are the defining characteristics of an outstanding band. With guitarist / composer Pyn Doll creating the perfect sequence of guitar undercurrents for Isis to release a torrent of angst above, it creates a perfect symphonic tsunami. Drummer Krash doll then adds to this surge a massive series of percussion tremors that rock the venue off its foundation. It might be the influence of actual surf activity between Krash and Pyn that contribute to this sound. The music has that retract / release quality to it just as the ocean does. Makes sense.
The nature of the album primarily involves social / political themes, therefore the passion in the cause will make itself visible in the live performance. Just look at the photos below. Isis Queen is pure operatic cataclysmic liberation. Her appeal is sexy and savage together in one identity. It would almost be as if you took the “dolled up” sex appeal of Debbie Harry (Blondie) and combined that with the sexual savagery of Wendy O Williams (Plasmatics), giving you what Isis Queen delivers on stage.
Next, is the authenticity in the MOVEMENT and message delivered through not only their music, but their LIFESTYLE as the Barb Wire Dolls. Turning down a record deal from Universal (Europe) for a separate project, while already on tour, the Dolls leader Pyn, instead chose to follow his instincts and invest in himself and his newly formed family of anarchists. The trio came together in an artist commune known as “The Ikarus Artist Commune” amidst the mountain village Avdou, on the island of Crete (indeed, the same artist commune that housed and nurtured the inception of recently famous indie band Grouplove). They’ve since been living a life of non-stop touring, spreading the message of consciousness and resistance worldwide. Below is a clip of Isis and Pyn describing the exact process of finding themselves in LA from Greece:
Their movement is not a movement just for the sake of rebellion. Their rebellion, rather, is a response to the social and political climate of a modern world as it is visible to anyone with two eyes that work properly, and enough moral standards to say “alright, enough is enough already.” On a long enough time line, history becomes so distorted, it eventually makes the linear paper trail of chronological events come back around again full circle. Every generation has its counter-response to either the generation before them, or whatever media and social ideals are shoved down their throats. As beings who think, create, and express freely, the most powerful asset at the forefront of this transpiration is the power of persuasion our music has.
In the late 70’s Joe Strummer wanted a riot of his own. In the 80’s Henry Rollins promised us we would rise above. Later in the 90’s NY street punks like The Casualties encouraged us to believe that “Tomorrow belongs to us.” Today, as many are plugged into a hologram prison of false reality, we have the Barb Wire Dolls, creating the architecture of the militant battle cry for your escape.
This sound of defiance might not be all too unfamiliar to some, and to others it may even seem familiarly refreshing, as it has been carefully crafted with assistance from the same mind that gave you the voice of past revolutions: Steve Albini. Albini comes from a background of Punk music, so he understands the energy and the musical identity as a producer and engineer. He’s the genius behind Nirvana’s In Utero, as well as the Pixies, and the return of The Stooges in more recent years. Albini is evidently good for preserving the raw power (so to speak) of seminal moments in the rock n’ roll timeline, while also keeping it current and relevant to present day events. In the audio clips below, you’ll hear the Dolls explain their relationship with Albini, and the chemistry that was formed when recording Slit.
Certain songs on the album, you’ll hear and instantly recall In Utero. This is an awesome thing, I feel. Many people, including myself, would favor In Utero instead of Nevermind. In fact, I remember when New York City had a rock radio station called K-Rock (probably the best one nationwide), I would hear more records played from In Utero than from Nevermind. I appreciate that especially, because I can easily listen to a track like Pennyroyal Tea, on repeat for a week straight. In Utero was more raw of an album than Nevermind, and still just as “catchy” enough to make the music digestible. Slit, offers that same appeal.
The intensity progression heard on the song Devil’s Full Moon, for example, propels a storm of pure explosive carnal energy as was once heard from Cobain early in his career. Towards the end around 4 minutes into Devil’s Full Moon, you’ll experience that sonic vocal peak that will make you rewind the entire record and experience that charge all over again. The music on Slit is like the two opposite ends of a bi-polar disorder occurring simultaneously, giving the listener an orgasmic, yet manic elation (again, the push and pull effect as the ocean has). This is the most accurate and truthful way I can describe the album. The album has a very well-paced musical high; it peaks when it needs to, comes down just before overdose, recovers, then repeats . . . all in one cohesive sound.
An additional advantage the music has, is that the lyrical content is not entirely visceral, despite having an introspective mood to it at times. There are moments when you hear the fearlessness in Isis Queen’s delivery, but you feel the honest vulnerability in the lyrics, such as in “I Wanna Know.” For the classic street punk purists who had no concern with the intrinsic, introspective “art punk” sounds and content that were defined by bands like Nirvana and Sonic Youth, you have records like Revolution, Your Escape, World On Fire, Walking Dead, and Teenage Crisis, which deal with social conditions that many of us can identify with in traditional Punk Rock music. Listeners will notice that the album is very well balanced.
The diversity in the album is to be appreciated because this only shows the capability for growth and evolution. We’re all infinite energies after all, once conscious of that capability. I was always a fan of how certain “grunge” bands from the 90’s, while not directly being punk, and whether subconsciously or not, drew influence directly from the punk movement, in their delivery and stage energy. It’s all Rock n’ Roll music at the end of the day.
The sound of Slit continues that tradition of authentic raw energy Rock n’ Roll. If you listen to the album start to end, you really can’t hear any clear similarities to other bands. For example, you can’t say they sound like The Distillers, or X-Ray Spex, or any Riot Grrl bands, Oi bands or other Punk bands in general. They have their own sound on this album, and if anything, it has a very “grunge” tone. Kurt Cobain was all “anti-establishment music” yet he never really spoke out about any of that in his music. It was almost like in the end he just became a different version of the same type of music and “machine” he was against. This is the key distinction to be observed. The Barb Wire Dolls, while having a similar mood and sound cohesively, are clearly a band for the people and about a movement of unchaining your mind from the psychological bondage of this physical world. You hear the music, and it’s primal, but not primitive. It’s right on with the spirit of the times and the intrinsic desire to evolve, elevate, and vibrate at high frequencies. Their music is very well produced, well written, yet not over-abundant, and not pigeon-holed. In the link below, they discuss the video for LA and other bands in NY they’ve shared the stage with.
Barb Wire Dolls are true to their mission, they’re true to the times, true to their character, and true to their sound. They have earlier music, which I also encourage fans to look into, because it’s just as good. The vibe of the earlier material is completely different from the material on Slit, but again, it’s consistent with the time, and none of it can be discredited. This time around, Pyn felt the band should have a more suitable stripped-down sound, and so he justifies the absence of a bass player by explaining, “We are just what is needed. As simple and raw and pure as the elements of fire. We came here to burn it all down and start a new. Life is a gift. Live it or suffer forever. Our choice is obvious. Humans are nature and self empowered when they choose it.”
Living, for the sake of your cause and your beliefs is the ultimate dream. You create your own rules, and you live by them. In the surfer movie Point Break, Patrick Swaze’s character says, “Why be a slave to the law when you can be its master?” This is a philosophy that is most true in the universe, yet very few people actually have the courage to apply it (not in actual bank robbery, as in the film, but in everyday life, with regards to conformity, accepted “norms” and false beliefs). After this piece was written, I asked Pyn about that philosophy – particularly as it is expressed in the song “Your Escape,” and he offers, “It’s about that point in your life where you either stay or go. Live or die. Create or destroy. Love or hate. Believe or deny. There comes a time in everyone’s life where they have to draw the line, then either take the leap of faith and cross it, or rot inside their self created cage-less zoo.”
The trio is currently touring in America until June, since their initial landing in California. After America, they hit the UK, for festival performances, and possibly Japan. Keep aware of their steps from their facebook page:
Their music could also be found on Amazon and Itunes for downloads, and can also be heard on Spotify.
I had to make a video montage of the one record “Wild Child Diamonds,” to show you the ATTITUDE on this album. Take note of Pyn’s “Johnny-Thunders” like facial expression as he cuts away on those riffs. That’s the attitude riffs like those command. That’s what’s been missing from today’s Rock n’ Roll: attitude! The genuine “I don’t give a fuck” attitude of The Stooges, the “born to lose” alleyway trash, cigarette-butt down to the filter appeal of Johnny Thunders, and just the essential sexy, aggressive, rebellion of dominant female lead singers in our past, is what the Rock n’ Roll attitude was about.
“New Yorkers, they’ve got fucking attitude, therefore they’re all fucking punks . . . and therefore the energy could never leave.”
-Isis Queen of the Barb Wire Dolls
Below are additional videos and live footage of their music from Slit:
All photography, except where copyright credited, provided by Lex Pistols on site. (Special thanks to our friends Rick Edwards, and Jeff Smith for additional photo work and video footage).