Le Butcherettes – A Raw Youth (ALBUM REVIEW)

[rating=9.00]a raw youth

I’ve had my suspicions for some time now, but they’re confirmed now. With the release of A Raw Youth, Le Butcherettes have solidified their position as the finest rock and roll band working today. Three records into their career, and they’ve proven themselves to be a diverse group who’s not beholden to any particular sound or style. As different as Cry is for the Flies was from Sin Sin Sin, A Raw Youth is from Cry is for the Flies. Yet a common thread runs through their records, tying them together with a bond of pure rock.

Frontwoman Teri Gender Bender (Teresa Suarez) is, as ever, the focal point of Le Butcherettes; her lyrics, heavily influenced by poetic and philosophical traditions, continue to display a rawness of feeling that elevates her far above the majority of her punk rock contemporaries. Her anger is not merely for the sake of being angry. She sings with the heartfelt intensity of a street preacher aiming to save souls and change minds. Rampant greed, patriarchal standards, hypocrisy, the slow death of personal creativity. Teri takes aim at all of it, shooting down perceptions and expectations with incisive prowess and ability that is sorely lacking from today’s musical climate.

“Killing the fire in me,” she sings before transitioning abruptly to, “Killing the woman in me” on “Lonely and Drunk”. Teri Gender Bender has never been one to shy away from singing about what it means to be a woman in this day and age. Faced with the choice of playing nice or speaking truth, she always chooses the latter, sneering in the face of non-believers and haters with strength and bravery. This is a theme explored time and time again throughout A Raw Youth, and, indeed, her entire career.

“Push me towards insanity/beat me, rape me, terrorize my mind,” she coos, almost sweetly, on “Sold Less Than Gold.” She is a woman who is acutely aware of her worth and who is, therefore, incensed by the devaluing of her voice and her experience. She dares you to defy her, relishing in the chance to tear you down to the size society has torn her. Despite the social obstacles in her way, she towers, unbroken in the face of adversity.

Her strength is juxtaposed by catchy pop hooks. A Raw Youth owes a musical debt to a retro sound and, at times, feels downright danceable. It’s a record as influenced by new wave as it is punk, though the influences don’t stop at either of those points. More than a few times, hints of psych drift through as if in encouragement of the elevated mind state it takes to see Teri’s perspective. It’s an intricate web of music and philosophy that lifts the album, and the band, from out of the quagmire in which much of modern music is currently entrenched.

As with Cry is for the Flies, A Raw Youth features a couple of guest appearances that give its songs a push farther into greatness. The inimitable Iggy Pop performs backup vocals on “La Uva,” his unmistakable growl serving as a nice counter balance to Teri’s howling rage. Album close “My Half” features guitar work by John Frusciante, pushing the psych elements hidden in the record’s background to the immediate forefront. It’s a testament to the raw ability found within Teri and Le Butcherettes that so many artists are so willing to lend their support to the band and their projects. In many ways, they are the apotheosis of the movement started by their forebears, and the band holds the torch high, shining the light of rock and roll far and wide.

A Raw Youth is a remarkable album that firmly plants itself at the base of rock’s Mount Olympus. Call it a statement of intent. Le Butcherettes have yet to ascend the slopes of the mountain to take their place among the pantheon of rock and roll legends, but by god they intend to. If you doubted this fact before you have little to back your claims in the face of A Raw Youth. Your disbelief is the fuel that fires Le Butcherettes and they’ll soon stand among greatness, if only to spite you and your naysaying tendencies.

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