February 1, 2001

What's Their Age Again?

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21 year old Mike: Wow, I still don’t have a job for next year, and there’s only 4 months til graduation. And somehow I managed to get five classes completely filled with busy work in the second semester of my senior year. Oops.

21 year old Donna: “I think you’ll like what I can do/ I saved the last shot just for you/ chug some more from my flask/ So c’mon it’s not too much to ask/ Do you wanna hit it?”

It shouldn’t be too hard to tell which one of these legal drinkers spends their time slaving away at good old Cornell, and which one is busy living a life of debauchery on tour.

It also should be fairly easy to pick up the gist of The Donnas Turn 21, the fourth album by the California group. Every song revolves around a variety of themes: sex, drugs, sex, alcohol, touring, and sex. Apparently alcohol isn’t the only thing that’s been flowing freely since The Donnas turned of age. In fact, only a few tracks on the album deals with feeling anything but horny. “Little Boy” and “Hot Pants” lyrically consist of humorous, if simplistic, kiss-offs aimed towards heartbreakers and the sluts that try to love them.

A welcome break from unbridled self-confidence is the insecure heartbreak of “Driven Through Heart.” While being dumped at the mini-mart isn’t quite as maudlin as Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas singing about getting thrown out in the middle of the road six miles from the rest stop, it still adds something of a human dimension to what would otherwise be the audio equivalent of 40 minutes in the lives of sexual superheroes, or maybe The Go-Gos. (Come on, I know you saw that Behind The Music episode.)

As is to be expected from a group that was reared on Joan Jett and Judas Priest (see their straight-faced cover of “Living After Midnight”), there is nothing subtle about the music of The Donnas Turn 21. All guitars and drums, the songs sound straight out of 1987, veering effortlessly from Poison to “I Love Rock and Roll.”

The album as a whole is a pure function of guilty pleasure, borrowing the unbridled libido of AC/DC in order to show that rhinestoned-women need ass too, especially when they’ve finally shed their baby fat. By reversing the rock stereotype of women as nothing more than starstruck groupies for heavy metal sexual predators to play with, The Donnas manage to give their views on sexual politics by steering clear of politics at all.

But this creates a new dilemma for rock critics: what are they going to do now that they can’t call it “cock rock” any longer?

Archived article by Mike Giusto