“It’s definitely an album you should listen to front to back. People these days don’t make time to listen to albums anymore, but this one has a really cool concept and structure,” Roger (bass) of Giant Kitty tells me over email.
Mind if I echo Roger? You should listen to Rampage from start to finish.
Rampage, a nineteen-track sprawl that has been in the works for more than two years, is a wrecking ball, swinging and rolling, slamming and razing the patriarchy, hypocritical male feminists, man-spreading creepy dudes, gentrifying condominiums, internet conspiracy theorists, and a number of other things that smack of oppression and ignorance.
But after I mentioned how politically charged the album is, Miriam (vocals and lyrics) noted that the album has a personal dimension. While writing Rampage, Miriam lost a close family member and said that “writing some of the more serious songs on the album was my way of coping with my life.”
Indeed, in some songs, it seems that Miriam is dangling off a cliff, the music her fraying rope. “Disorder Girl” is one such song. But Cassandra (guitar) admitted to being a little baffled by listeners’ response to “Disorder Girl:” “I was surprised that so many people focused on that song when we started previewing the album.” But, she added, “The subject matter is obviously powerful and moving right now thanks to the Me Too movement.”
“Disorder Girl” gives expression to a victim’s helplessness and hopelessness. “The song is about being stuck in an abusive situation for whatever reason,” Miriam explained. The first few measures of “Disorder Girl” pound with a single bass note, down-strummed with indefatigable outrage. But what follows is not triumphant; this is not the anthem of protest and
uprising — victims reclaiming their dignity and agency.
It’s the lamentation of the defeated, of those who believe that their only option is to surrender and welcome the verbal and physical violence. “Assess me. I’ll come up short. Undress me. It won’t take much work. Deduce me. I’ll read like a book. Reduce me. I’ll crumble with a look,” Miriam commands in the chorus.
There is a pattern here: The abuser acts, and the victim, trained and conditioned, reacts. The latter has successively reduced the former to a mere beast, a creature only capable of instinctual reflex, utterly incapable of deliberate choice. Yet the indignation in Miriam’s voice, a simmer on the verge of boil, is unmistakable — incipient resistance.
The brilliance of Rampage, I think, is that its content is serious and its tone jocular, though it never diminishes the importance of current issues and the validity of personal suffering. There are songs that are pure fun, like “Benadryl,” a Descendants-esque sprint that burns out in little more than a hundred seconds and recommends imbibing Benadryl before doing pretty much anything: breaking up with your boyfriend, going to the movies, buying a waterbed — you name it.
But many of the songs are like “Barf City,” searing and sardonic. “Barf City” lays bare the ugly consequences of gentrification while lampooning the typical agents of this urban phenomenon with comical clips of a woman disparaging the neighborhood that she moves to after its former residents have been driven out. Speaking through her stuffy nose, pointed in a permanent snub, the woman bleats over instrumental passages, descrying the supposed seediness of the area when she first sees it and then raving about how “family friendly” it’s become once all traces of poverty have been paved over with yuppie wholesomeness.
Riding on a crested wave of surf rock power chords, the message of “Barf City” cuts right to the heart of the problem with gentrification: Demanding that a working-class neighborhood change to satisfy one’s desire for a sterilized, whitewashed bourgeois existence is selfish, and selfishness ruins lives. “It’s nice now, just for you,” Mariam sings in the chorus, twisting “for you” into an accusing snarl.
The peevishness of the song’s condominium-dwelling brat is magnified when she rattles off a litany of “don’ts” that will be HOA regulation once she is a resident: No Easter egg hunts, no Christmas lights, no bicyclers, no balloons on mailboxes. No. No. No. No. Everything but breathing is banned, and even that might be straining this woman’s patience.
But you know what’s not banned in our society, at least not by cultural norms and standard practices? Unequal pay for women and promotion systems rigged to favor men, issues Miriam raises in “Pretty Little.” “Calm down little lady. I only want what’s best for you baby,” Miriam, impersonating a white-collared, country-clubbing chauvinist, insists with a wagging finger. In the second verse, Miriam indicates that, in fact, he does not have her best interest in mind and that the same qualities that get men promoted go unnoticed in women: “Get to my job. Hope I don’t see my boss. I’m good at what I do, but that never gets across.”
Whereas “Pretty Little” depicts a world run by men, “Like Girls Do,” the closer, is devoid of dudes. “Like Girls Do” is, as Cassandra explained, “an LGBTQ love song that doesn’t give into any of the stereotypes . . . Plus it rocks like an ‘80s hair rock song.” One that has a slap-happy, no-holds-bar bass solo as a prelude.
After eighteen seconds of Roger going ham on his instrument, Trinity (drums) sets a brisk tempo and Cassandra riffs on chunky, palm-muted chords. “Let’s play like girls do,” Miriam nearly whispers — a secret invitation dispatched surreptitiously in the ear of a friend.
“Like Girls Do,” Cassandra told me, is the “pinnacle” of Rampage for her. It does feel like Giant Kitty has conquered and surmounted the issues with which the band grapples throughout the album. As listeners, we find ourselves standing with them and surveying from this vantage the many obstacles that prevent the reign of freedom and justice that keep us from living on the mountaintop.
But if that’s too clichéd and lame for you, I’ll end by quoting Trinity: “You should buy ONE MEELION COPIES” of Rampage.