Anyone like The Soviettes? With each album those Minnesota punkers got better, finally perfecting their sound on their third release (‘LPIII’) before throwing in the towel. After their break up, vocalist/guitarist Annie and drummer Danny formed a punk/garage band called Awesome Snakes and their record was cool in an uber-trashy sort of way, but it was The Soviettes’ other vocalist/guitarist Maren “Sturgeon” Macosko who took the band’s truest spirit away with her.
Maren now fronts The Gateway District [sometimes “The”, sometimes not], whose debut full length 2009’s ‘Some Days You Get The Thunder’ sounds mostly like you’d imagine The Soviettes’ fourth album to sound, if only they stayed together and taken a small step backward to something a little rawer. Released two years later, their second full length ‘Perfect’s Gonna Fail’ works very much on the old maxim “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
Driven by the buzzing rhythm guitars of Maren and Carrie (who also shares singing duties and solid drumming (courtesy of Brad, also of Rivethead), ‘Run Away’ sets the tone for the record, featuring a sound which -although hugely comparable to The Soviettes – has a similar carefree energy as the band’s label-mates The Copyrights. Carrie’s lead voice is tuneful and user friendly in punk terms, but when in tandem with Maren’s sounds even better. ‘Macy’ is tighter, faster and manages to be even more like The Soviettes, due to Maren taking the lead vocal role. The bass (played by Nate, also of Banner Pilot) has a much bigger presence too; his playing brings a superb rumbling edge. The band then take all of these great features and blend them perfectly on ‘Leaving Me Behind’, which features some great harmony vocals (from all band members) set against what is perhaps the band’s finest arrangement. This is punk-pop as it absolutely should be: two minutes of hard rhythmic chords with a strong chorus and no padding whatsoever.
‘Blue Halls’ couples Maren’s distinctive vocal against some buzzsaw guitar work and a rally cry of “worthless piece of shit” while ‘I’ll Take The River’ works well due to a bouncier mood, and a superb combination of ringing and staccato guitars. Despite a few of the vocals being noticeably wobbly in places, it’s still incredibly strong. After a brief moment of guitar work that’s reminiscent of The Jam’s ‘Billy Hunt’, ‘Let It Ride’ reverts to what Gateway District are best at: simple chords played at full pelt. This number captures the punky brilliance of ‘Leaving Me Behind’ with the addition of a playful guitar lead, which puts the band in the same frame as the likes of Pinhead Gunpowder.
Across 26 and a half minutes, the four musicians barely stop for breath, with ‘Fishman’s Story’ coming closest to the band “slowing down”, as the band chop in their high energy punk-pop for an alternative jangle, along with a few longer stretches of vocal with Maren and Carrie joining in harmony. But even then, the slightly more restrained moments are interspersed with a dose of typical punkiness, so it’s not too long before things return to normal.
If you haven’t discovered (The) Gateway District, then put them at the top of your list of punk bands to check out. Tunes delivered at the pace which often made The Soviettes so enjoyable, combined with great playing and plenty of sing-along choruses make ‘Perfect’s Gonna Fail’ a must have disc.