Sunday, July 29, 2007

Album Review: Ms. Led, Shake Yourself Awake

Ms. Led, is not, as their name might imply, an all-female Led Zeppelin cover band. Lesli Wood (vocals, guitar, piano), Peg Wood (guitar), Matt Menovcik (bass), and Steph Hasselman (drums) compare their sound to Ted Leo & The Pharmacists and Elastica, while griping that "lazy journalists just like to think of every 'girl' band they've ever heard of." So what I'm about to say next will probably really piss them off. (I apologize in advance.) If you take the best qualities of The Gits, Storm Large, Blondie, Tsunami Bomb, Patti Smith, Juliana Hatfield, and The Go-Gos, add a pound of politics and a cup of feminism, then filter all of that through the Northwest Indie Rock sieve, you would end up with Ms. Led.

Shake Yourself Awake, Ms. Led's 4th album was released this June after a two-year writing/recording period. According to the band's bio, "the album is [Lesli's] most personal work, inspired by her own challenges and her battle with Multiple Sclerosis, while maintaining an active career in music and completing law school." If that's not enough to inspire you on its own, wait until you hear the album!

Lesli Wood's voice is agile and beautiful. It moves through growling anger to surprising fragility from one song to another, never losing its intensity. Starting off with "New Agenda," Lesli states that "we are overdue for revolution," and expresses her desire to "hear the people say NO MORE." "Up To the Old Tricks" is the catchiest song on the album, with a syncopated bounce reminiscent of 60's power pop.

"Have It All" is all about female empowerment and, fittingly, Lesli channels Mia Zapata's growling vocals. "Willing to Stay" is my favorite and most confusing song on the album (what is it about?! SOMEONE TELL ME!), but "Somewhere on 101" has my favorite lyrics: "Hesitation's evidence of gravity." "There's No Room for You Here" is the only melodic, spacey protest song on the album, and "Because Light is a Woman" is an angsty, pain-ripping-through-the-vocal-chords (ala Storm) ballad, after which "Fools" closes down the album with bitter-sweet solemnity. Steph's drums and Matt's bass back up the show-stealing guitar riffs with consistent, efficient rhythm and over everything swoops Lesli's pissed-off but lulling vociferation.

Trust me, you'll love it.

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