Local Listen – Rotten Reputation is Hardcore as Hell

This is an entry in an ongoing series for 303 Magazine, which will provide a range of local album reviews. It is our intention to highlight the talents of local musicians, whether veterans to the industry or newcomers. Like the bands, the album can be fresh or something we just haven’t had the power to take off repeat in the past few months. Check out previous entries in the series here.

Hardcore both in punk and in kink, all-femme Riot Grrrl punk band Rotten Reputation have a release slated to come out during Pride weekend this month. Rather than an album, the new songs will be released as a double EP under the title BDSM, standing for “Boys Don’t Stop Me.”

The first EP, titled PUNISHMENTS, flogs listeners with furious screaming vocals, fast guitars and even faster drums, while the second EP, AFTERCARE, winds down and brings listeners back to recovery.

Lead singer Lola Marie will put you in your place.

PUNISHMENTS incorporates very direct, no-bullshit political lyrics that hit on a wide range of issues, covering everything from slut-shaming to the Occupy movement. The absolutely justifiable rage bubbling in this album is palpable. The album kicks off with the repeated line each time raised in volume, tenor and anger. “I AM NOT JUST BODY PARTS,” the introducing lines of “Body Parts,” scream, while the second song, “Sick,” explores sexual harassment and interactions with misogyny. “Sick,” ends with a tough delivery on rules of consent, a reminder that should not need repeating.

A quick and throbbing bassline, played by Dahlia McAluney, kicks off the third song, “Free Ryloth,” and delves even deeper into the feminist rage that accompanies their take on misogyny. The band’s newest addition to the line-up, McAluney inflects a style of bass that harkens back to early D.C. hardcore punk. She releases her solo signature style of folk punk under the name Flower Crown Me a Queen. Under this project, McAluney explores the experience of, “being trans, hating cops, surviving capitalism, and staying cute while doing it.”

The most recent addition to Rotten Reputation, Dahlia McAluney.

The next two songs, “DT FU,” and “169,” utilize simple yet powerful guitar lines that complement the weight and depth of the lyrics in both songs, as well as the emotionally-charged delivery by vocalist Lola Marie.

AFTERCARE turns the release towards a more playful direction. Packed with straightforward social critiques, the lyrics still carry a sense of teasing ribs and are even at times flat-out humorous and refreshingly blunt. While each song provides a peek into someone’s life, each lyric is simultaneously idiosyncratic and universal. Though the words navigate personal stories that might make a listener wonder what exactly the bandmates have been through, that mindfully left out context only fuels one’s curiosity — prompting a sense of longing for more.

“Heroine” kicks off the second EP and has the uplifting, “school’s out” major-key punk sound of bands like Guttermouth or Screaming Females. Softer, grungier basslines pluck away while drummer Betty the Beet (“Bee”) chugs away with a more gentle, yet still driving, rhythm. “Ex-Boyfriend,” and “California Boy,” both feel deeply personal yet extremely relatable at the same time, walking the fine line between self-expression and story-telling. AFTERCARE ends with the doomy “Dysphoria Borealis.” It sounds like a slower Descendents, or as if Seattle band Mommy Long Legs went back in time and recorded a song with Unwound then ramped up the tempo.

Overall, BDSM explores the truly rage-inducing daily encounters these four musicians experience while staying lighthearted enough to make jokes. This album rocks, screams and slaps all at once, and later brings on the healing power of laughter.

BDSM will be digitally released on June 14th  and available for purchase on Bandcamp. Physical copies will be available on June 16th at Rotten Reputation’s Tour kick-off/Album release show at Seventh Circle Music Collective. Rotten Reputation will embark on their California Bound and Gagged tour later this month, taking their kinky feminist rage to the West Coast.

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