Unlike many other bands overwhelmed by too much too soon, however, Bratmobile has the opportunity to add chapters to its story. Now signed to the Berkeley, California-based label Lookout Records -- where Smith handles college-radio promotion and Neuman works as general manager -- Bratmobile has released an explosive new 14-song salvo, Ladies, Women and Girls. Although singer Wolfe now lives in Washington, D.C., where she works for the Washington Post, having "real world" jobs has given the group the scheduling flexibility it lacked when its members were all in school. The band is now freed up for its first cross-country tour in eight years.
"A lot of times people say, 'If I knew then what I know now, I would have done things differently,'" Smith says. "Now we have a chance to do it again. It's not like when you're 18 and everything's so dramatic and intense and crazy. Now we get to step back and be mellowed out and do things as adults. But not too mellowed out."
If anything, Bratmobile's edge is sharper than ever. On Ladies, Women and Girls, singer Allison Wolfe repeatedly spits variations on the word "hate," whether she's declaring, I don't like your boyfriend and I can't stand you, skewering the target of "You're Fired" for being scared of girls taking things/in their own hands and making things, or lambasting a p.c. trust-fund boy for speaking on behalf of women, telling him, You can't feel how we suffer or we bleed/can't give us what we want, much less what we need. Wolfe's tone has always been defiant, but many of her previous rants were cartoonishly profane and sported titles that winked at the listener -- when she threw a fit on "Brat Girl" or peppered Pottymouth with the f-word, it all seemed to be part of the show. By contrast, when she snarls, Who's gonna kick your ass?/I think it's a girl, on "Not in Dog Years," her fury seems focused and genuine.
Likewise, the music simmering below Wolfe's diatribes has evolved. Smith's guitar work, while retaining its minimalist charm, features a dark side that smartly matches the lyrical content. Her foreboding surf guitar brings to mind the Dead Kennedys, her sludgy solos conjure horrific images of the Misfits, and she experiments with chords for the first time, giving some tunes a pounding, choppy feel. Neuman leads the group's powerful transitions with her thundering, complex drum rolls, and Jon Nikki of the group Gene Defcon stopped by the studio to supply Bratmobile with its first basslines to appear on a full-length release.