Release Date: May 15, 2007
Girl In A Coma is one of the latest bands to come out on Joan Jett's Blackheart Records, and based on what I've heard so far from this label (whose recent releases include last year's Vacancies release A Beat Missing Or A Silence Added), I'm yet to be convinced that Joan Jett and Kenny Laguna can do any wrong when it comes to choosing young bands and producing stellar records. Both Before I'm Gone definitely gets that stellar distinction.
Yes, That IS a Smiths Reference
Even if the band's name weren't lifted from a Smiths tune, Girl In A Coma wouldn't be able to avoid the Smiths comparison due to the fact that the pipes of Nina Diaz, the band's vocalist, sound just like Morrisey had he been a woman (and I know there are more than a few of my readers who would argue that he was, but you guys should just pipe down for the duration of this review).
As a personal side note, I'm not a huge fan of Morrissey. His track record of 30-minute concerts and my personally witnessing public displays of arrogance and attitude leave me unimpressed with him as a person. Even so, the Smiths are legendary and influential with a great sound to boot, and anyone who can take that sound and adapt it is more than welcome in my stereo.
Smiths and Morrissey comparisons aside, Girl In A Coma very much create their own sound. While they are a band firmly entrenched in influences such as the Smiths and bands of their era, these three ladies from Texas (the band is made up of sisters Nina and Phanie Diaz on guitar/vocals and drums respectively, and Jenn Alva on bass) are not afraid to take those influences and elegantly distort them into a sound that is all their own.
The record opens with the solid track "Clumsy Sky," a song which shows Girl In A Coma in all their lovely range. They start out ethereal and dreamy, and quickly transition into dirty Steve Jones-esque punk hooks, only to draw it back, cleaning it up a bit before dumping the grit back in.
The entire album is rife with these unexpected transitions. Tracks like "Road to Home" opens with one of those total Smiths-influenced sounds, only to be punched up with some totally fuzzed-out guitars, and "I'll Ask Him" mixes revved-up punk riffs with power-pop ballads.
But again and again, it's necessary to come back once again to the Smiths influences. Despite the band's ability to break away from those comparisons, they still sound great when they follow the Smiths' formula. On "Celibate Now," they open with a dreamy '50s riff, which is then slowly smothered by Diaz's dreamy vocalizations, only to crawl back up to the surface. It's the sound on this track, and others like it, that remind me how much I liked the Smiths, and how happy I am that another band has come along, taken that sound, ran with it, and yes I'll say it, improved upon it.
Whether it's the female vocals or the added grit and edge to their riffs, Girl in a Coma puts the Smiths sound in a new package, and I like it. Their sound still is evolving, and they will probably never be as canonical as Morrissey and Co., but I don't think it's their intent. They just seem out to create great music, damn the attitude, and that's what Both Before I'm Gone delivers.