Review Summary: Apparently, all the good guitar riffs were invented by the 80’s.
Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way right now. The Donnas are a GIRL rock band. Not just female fronted. Oh no, an entire rock band of estrogen. Girls. In a band. They exist and have breasts.
Now that captain obvious is out of the way, how does this album sound as rock record? If you grew up in the 80’s and or familiar with any of The Donnas’s previous releases the answer is, very familiar. The Donnas have made a career of making the same album over and over again since their inception fresh out of high school in 1998. Something AC/DC is admittedly guilty of doing for much longer, but gets the pass because somehow they make it work. The point is if you’ve ever heard anything by The Donnas before, then you’ll know exactly what to expect and have already made up your mind on how you feel about this album.
For everyone else, The Donnas are a hard rock band from out of the Bay-Area in California, and they want you to know how much they just loved the 80’s. Bitchin’ sounds indistinguishable from everything they’ve released up to this point; new songs, same execution. Err, with two song writing credits to “Love Is A Battlefield” Holly Knight (“Wasted and “Here For The Party”). I guess that’s new? But other than that, expect a full does of 80’s tinged cheese. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Depth and innovation are great and all, but what about just plain ole’ rocking out and having a good time? Except you can’t shake the feeling that, despite what the chorus may tell you, maybe you’re not having as good a time as you think.
The songwriting ranges from “dumb but fun” to “hilariously bad”. The instrumentation is passable. Maya Ford and Torry Castellano (bassist and drummer respectively) hold down a tight if boring rhythm. Allison Robertson’s guitar work maybe the only stand out here. Her riffs are simple but fun and the short solos fit the songs just right. So what prevents this from being a good album? The simple fact that there’s not a damn thing here that you could swear you hadn’t heard already before, and done better. Pick AC/DC, Kiss, and any band from the 80’s with tight pants and face paint, water it down, and you have the sound of this album in a nutshell. Nothing’s memorable, and no track stands out. It’s not a bad listen. It just feels too predictable, and more than a little empty.
One of the most hurting things on this entire album is the vocals. Brett Anderson has a painfully flat, uninspired vocal delivery. Even some of the more decent lyrics, feel like missed moments as she beats through them. Where Vince Neil or Sebastian Bach would have wailed, she keeps the same snarky, sassy tone. And the fact that she doesn’t change her tone much through the whole album makes a straight listen a chore. But to make matters worse, as if the rest of the band knows Brett doesn’t exactly sound enthusiastic, they chime in with what have got to be the most annoyingly bratty backup vocals ever. Hope you like sing-song, grade-school choruses, because those damn backups are on EVERY song.
This album isn’t the worst thing I’ve heard, but it’s far from the best. Truth be told, it’s just so painfully average. There are a few stand out moments provided by Robertson’s guitar, but it’s nothing you haven’t heard before. Honestly, I like this genera of music, and when done right it can be dumb, but enjoyable fun. But when you try to ride to coattails of more successful artists and bring nothing original to the table, you’re going to end up missing that special something that makes this type of music work. Rock n’ roll isn’t dead. But with the way The Donnas, and other well-meaning bands keep raiding the past, it sure feels that way.