Review Summary: Mission accomplished.
As much as Western society has progressed over the past few decades, gender inequality remains an almost universal pressing issue across the spectrum – and the music world is no different. While some genres do manage to even the odds in this regard - many of the most influential pop artists of the last thirty years were, after all, female - others continue to lag openly (and somewhat shamefully) behind. The poster child for this is, of course, hip-hop, a genre which, even today, continues to appear proud of its narrow-minded views on gender roles and equality; no serious conversation about this topic should, however, overlook rock and metal, genres so blatantly male-centric that the term 'female-fronted'
has come to designate its own genre
, regardless of what style of music the performers actually play.
Even still, and despite the dearth of opportunities to shine within these particular styles, female rockers have traditionally not been shy about trying to make a name for themselves, regardless of the odds - and, at times, they have undeniably succeeded, either as an integral part of otherwise all-male bands (such as Arch Enemy, Blondie, Coal Chamber or Paramore), under their own name (Doro, Lita Ford, Pat Benatar) or, less frequently, as part of an all-female ensemble, like Kittie, Vixen or The Runaways.
Short-lived Los Angeles hard rockers Cockpit fit into the latter group, with nary a male presence to be found amidst its four members. Rather, frontwoman Linda Lou (vocals and guitar) and accomplices Alicia Blu (lead guitar), Terrii King (bass) and Rachael Rine (drums) were declaredly out to make a statement which bears repeating, namely that, yes, women are perfectly capable of creating music which rocks just as hard as that of male-centric bands – if not harder.
In fact, during their short lifespan, the group went to considerable lengths to attempt to bring back the hard-rocking, take-no-prisoners spirit of such eighties female icons as Lita Ford and Doro Pesch – and the least that can be said after listening to the group's one and only EP is that their influences would undoubtedly be proud.
Indeed, from the moment the title track first swaggers through the speakers to the very last chord on Gun For Hire
, Mission to Rock
is a continuous, 16-minute blast of rip-roaring, unapologetic, self-assured hard rock, the kind very few bands since the 1990s have pulled off without sounding forced or hackneyed. Cockpit, however, deftly avoid that trap; at no point over the course of these five tracks does their blend of AC/DC, Poison and Lita Ford sound anything less than convincing and fully realised. These women are clearly passionate about what they are doing, and that passion shines through on every note on this album.
This is helped, in no small amount, by the powerful, crystalline production, reminiscent of Brendan O'Brien's work on the latter AC/DC albums – and which, like those, manages to pack a wallop while still giving each instrument its own distinctive space in the mix. Terrii King's bass, in particular, is given unusual (and rather welcome) room to breathe, making her above-average low-end fretwork (on the title track especially) not only audible but discernible
, even over Lou and Blu's raucous, immense double-axe assault. Rine's drum sound, on the other hand, could have been lifted directly from one of the better-produced albums of the 1980s glam period, presenting a bombast not unlike what Poison or Bon Jovi were offering up in their own records at the time.
Good performers and production values are, however, nothing without good songs – and fortunately, in that regard, Cockpit deliver the goods, as well. The title track sets the tone right from the off, with one of the best intros to a hard rock song in recent memory leading into an irrepressibly catchy tune which showcases Cockpit's abilities, and pays homage to their influences without ever sounding like a carbon copy of any one of them.
As good as that song is, however, follow-up At A Loose End
somehow manages to improve on it, asserting itself as the best song on the record while keeping the whole thing under the three-minute mark - thus providing proof positive that a song does not have to be lengthy to put its point across. Sonically, the track expands upon Cockpit's declared pool of influences, with the a capella intro interspersed with a heavy, staccato guitar riff bringing to mind Veruca Salt's Volcano Girls
, while lyrically it also strays from the hard rock cliches present elsewhere on the EP, instead tackling themes of addiction and hopelessness – though not in any greater depth than a standard 80s hair-rock group might have.
Unfortunately, peaking this early into an album inevitably brings about a dip in quality for the remainder of the running time – and this EP is certainly no exception. Not that White Flag, Shot In Hell
and Gun For Hire
are bad songs, in any way, shape or form; in fact, musically, they are just as good as what came before. The riffs and drumming remain just as fist-pumpingly powerful as on the first two tracks, and the songwriting itself yields plenty of little moments to enjoy, with the rollicking solo and short-but-sweet bass run on Hell
being a particular standout in this regard; similarly, Lou's vocal performance loses none of its vim, with the verse sections, in particular, all feature interesting and appealing vocal lines.
Sadly, however, Cockpit appear to have had their priorities mixed up during the writing process for these three songs - for, as good as the verses are, it is in the chorus
sections that each of the three falters. While perfectly acceptable in their own right – and eventually memorable, after the right amount of spins – all three fall considerably short of the instant catchiness of the opening two tracks, thus making each of their respective tracks pale slightly in comparison to them. Even still, neither of these three songs detracts from the overall listening experience, and each would be considered an easy stand-out (or, at the very least, an above-average backup track) on many a band's output; the fact that they are the worse
tracks on this EP is but a testament to Cockpit's ability to create instantly catchy sleaze-rock anthems
On the whole, then, Mission To Rock
is a shining example of 1980s hair-metal worship done right, and the sort of record most of their sleaze-rock revival contemporaries wish
they had created. Sadly, the band's state of grace was not to last for long; the group itself would part ways a scant two years after their initial recording (and six years after initially forming), with drummer Rine going on to join an all-female Guns'n'Roses tribute act – where she is sometimes assisted by rhythm-section sidekick King – while frontwoman Linda Lou chose to continue creating original music with new band Marishi Ten. None of the new songs the singer and guitarist so enthusiastically gushed about only a few years previously (one of which, reportedly, in collaboration with Skid Row's Rachel Bolan), would ever materialise in recorded form, and Cockpit's entire legacy would forever remain encapsulated within the all-too-short quarter-of-an-hour of their one and only EP. Still, as tragically short as their recording career was, the least that can be said about these LA glam queens is that - as even a non-committal playthrough of said record will attest – their Mission To Rock
was successfully accomplished.
Mission To Rock
At A Loose End