Review Summary: Count this grumpy old man as being sold on these particular young’uns.
At the risk of exacerbating the widely held notion that yours truly is a grumpy old man; Is it me or are young’uns getting just a little too big for their boots of late? It’s no longer good enough to score a fluke video game win, they now have to be able to pull the console apart and piece it back together. Athletes in certain sports are deemed ready for retirement come their mid-20s, while the more impatiently ambitious expect to be millionaires by the same age. Music is not immune either, with Willow Smith scoring a top 10 hit at the age of ten, while One Direction are currently turning 21 year old girls into cougars. Of course, it is pop which is most unable to resist such a youthful invasion, with the inherent limitations of teenagers mostly leaving rock-based genres be. There are exceptions, however, and the biggest may have come over two decades ago when all-girl quintet The Runaways made a splash on the hard-rock scene. Even they waited until their late teens though, a luxury L.A. based quartet Cherri Bomb clearly could not afford.
Aged between 14 and 16, Cherri Bomb were formed the boring way: Start a band, play some live shows, record an EP, earn a record deal... And now comes the release of their debut LP ‘This Is the End of Control’. While a minor miracle that they did not come together through the factory of an Idol-spinoff television series, it is almost immediately apparent that this is for the best when the wisely-sequenced opening four tracks move along briskly & exuberantly over a nine minute period. Following a brief, strangely ill-fitting introductory track of vocal harmonizing, the quartet hit their straps on punchy single ‘Better This Way’, as thick buzzing riffs meet pounding galloping drums and a catchy sing-along refrain. Urgent successor ‘Raw. Real.’ continues the momentum, while sole EP holdover ‘Let It Go’ later takes everything up a notch with value-adding backing vocals. For such a young outfit, it is remarkable how well these four sync in with each other since all members get their time to shine without ever dominating the band’s sound.
Considering their gender, The Runaways will always be a comparison point, as will more recent acts such as Hole, The Pretty Reckless and even Pink. However, the more fitting representation of the band’s sound may be the Foo Fighters, with segments of many tracks here sounding like they could have made the cut for any noughties released Fooeys LP. For the most part, ‘This Is the End of Control’ is straight-ahead guitar-driven rock, with both Julia Pierce and Miranda Miller providing some seriously hooky guitar leads that contain a nice variety of tones. Thankfully, the managerial influence of former Hole, Peaches and Eagles of Death Metal drummer Samantha Maloney clearly instils a fuzzy, more experimental edge at times, a vibe best heard on alt-rocker ‘Sacrificial Lamb’. Lyrically, the usual youthful themes of rebellion rise to the surface, but while they clearly fall into cliché, they are neither cringe-worthy, nor feel forced... Well, not until predictable power-ballad ‘Heart Is a Hole’ and the made-to-be-played-live closer ‘Hold On’ anyway.
In all honesty, it is practically impossible to ignore the ages of these four young ladies when listening to ‘This Is the End of Control’. What is refreshing is that all those involved with the making of this cohesive album have not ignored them either, but worked around them in a manner which still allows Cherri Bomb to stretch the boundaries of what they are capable of performing. Expertly produced to give off as much grit as it does accessibility, nothing here suggests the band are playing up to what could easily be treated as a novelty, nor are they conspicuously avoiding any related constraints. Are there limitations apparent? Of course there are... Fifteen year old musicians can only be so technical, while Pierce’s vocal range is tested when diversity is required. Yet, it is the pleasingly natural fashion in which everything is delivered that goes a long way to overcoming such impediments. “This is true, how I feel. This is raw, this is real” Pierce bellows, before later suggesting “It’s in my blood and I won’t give up coz it’s running through my veins”. Count this grumpy old man as being sold on these particular young’uns.
Recommended Tracks: Let It Go, Better This Way, Raw Real & Too Many Faces.