I was psyched when I heard the Black Bananas and Kurt Vile cover of "Before They Make Me Run," and hoped it would bode well for the new record from Jennifer Herrema and band (the same personnel as RTX, her previous outfit), but it doesn't appear on Rad Times Xpress IV and probably wouldn't fit.
Then I heard the first single, "Rad Times," and my enthusiasm dissipated. Dance beats? What the fuck? (I like dance music, but when rockers give it a try, the results aren't usually pretty.) After a few listens, though, it grew on me.
So now I've got the full-length, and I'm pleased to report that it's primarily a rock affair. I mean, you could dance to it, if you were so inclined, a la MTV-era ZZ Top and Judas Priest ("Sharp Dressed Man," "Breaking the Law," etc.).* Just imagine a female front woman and a lower budget, and you're halfway there. It isn't a bad place to be. Further, the chain-smoking growler's not the strongest singer—that was former partner Neil Hagerty's job—but she's got style for miles and miles. And her vocals are mixed low enough that they don't intrude on the groove.
When I write about women in rock, I try not to make a big deal about gender, and yet I can't think of another woman making music like Herrema. It isn't masculine; it's just that she gravitates to genres that most other female musicians tend to ignore, and I've always been drawn to artists who do that. She doesn't look or sound like Suzi Quatro or Joan Jett—she prefers denim to leather—but she also comes across as a world-class ass-kicker. If I were re-making a post-feminist Road Warrior, she would definitely be my first choice. Rad times indeed.
Back in my radio days, we called these kinds of characters heshers. If punk and new wave trampled all over the long-haired, bell bottom-clad proponents of the late-1970s/early-1980s, Jennifer Herrema makes a good case for a revival.
* The more I listen to "Rad Times," the more I hear a Ciccone Youth-like approach to Madonna.
Drag City releases Rad Times Xpress IV on January 31, 2012. When I Googled the group's name, I stumbled across this thread at Yahoo! Answers, "Is it unhealthy to eat black bananas?" I think this response sums up both band and fruit nicely, "A black banana is okay; just more mushy, but nice and sweet."