Kelly Buchanan’s debut full-length Bastard Daughter opens with a jarring ten seconds of balls-to-the-wall, full-speed-ahead rock `n’ roll. It’s so intense, so powerful, that it’s twice as unsettling when it stops. What a tease that Buchanan must be to tempt us with such glorious noise. I, for one, demand an explanation, though I’m afraid I’m not going to get it. What I do get, however, is a dozen songs of high energy rock `n’ roll by a singer who’s equally intense, emotionally, even if the rest of the album never achieves that peak of thunderous dissonance.
Bastard Daughter is an intense ride, no matter the volume (though it is pretty loud, come to think of it). Take a look at the song titles — “”Cocaine,” “Body Bag,” “Gun or a Ring,” “Asshole of the Year” — and it’s apparent that this girl isn’t fucking around. But the music itself is somewhat of an oddity. Much of the album reminds me of mid `90s girl-pop like Juliana Hatfield or a less experimental PJ Harvey. And Buchanan’s voice sounds, at times, so much like Ani DiFranco, it’s eerie.
Part of me didn’t really want to like this album, maybe in part because of that introductory tease, and maybe because I though I was in for something a little too Lilith Fair for my tastes. But as it turns out, Buchanan really rocks. The first proper song, “Letter In Your Mailbox,” with its chorus of “You are not a one-night stand” is the culprit that had me worried at first, as it sounded a little too MOR Top 40 friendly, I wasn’t sure what too expect, after that. But by the fourth track, “Piggyback Ann,” a seething hysterical punk rock song, I was sold.
Yep, when Buchanan rocks, she really rocks, I tell you what. Look no further than “Cocaine,” a song reminiscent of Rid of Me era PJ Harvey. Guitars wail and scratch like they’re taking a fierce beating, crying out for mercy from the abuse. Buchanan’s voice is equally fearsome, as she howls like she has a bad case of Tourette’s. After that and the potty-mouthed rocker “Body Bag,” Buchanan treats us to “I Don’t Want to Know You,” a catchier track more fit for radio play, for more reasons than that it doesn’t mention necrophilia.
Kelly Buchanan has created a swell debut on Bastard Daughter, doing away with any notions of women as more delicate than men. The girl can get loud. Really loud. But she still has room for growth. I’d giver her a few years, but if she keeps it up and doesn’t give in to her more Alanis Morrissette-esque instincts, she will be at the level of a songwriter like PJ Harvey, easily.
Ani DiFranco – Little Plastic Castle
PJ Harvey – Dry
Tracy Bonham – The Burdens of Being Upright
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.