It seems that 2005 is the year of the breakout bands with a divergently talented front woman, whether it’s chanteuses, like Sabina Sciubba of the Brazilian Girls, or tough girls with a gritty gusto, like Erika Wennerstrom of the Heartless Bastards and now Jennifer Pearl of Lion Fever. If PJ Harvey and Chrissie Hynde had a baby girl she would have a voice sounding a lot like Pearl’s. I would even place my money on her if she were ever to fight in a three way, steel cage, death match with Siouxsie Sioux and Karen O. Along with her fellow skilled band members on Haunted Water, Pearl churns out some angular proto-punk moxie blended with a healthy shot of gothic cabaret.
“Lost Heat” gets things going with the chamber-like piano tinges of Casey Geisen (ex-Starlite Desperation) as Pearl shows the double threat she is with her steamy vocals and guitar lines that buzz like a weed whacker. Lion Fever carries a rugged smattering that is shown in tracks like “Victory” and with the cathartic shuffle and the guitar fuzz blast of “Crowd Pleaser.” It is by far the best song on this stellar debut where Pearl’s vocal disposition makes her sound like a resilient femme fatale who could walk into a bar and not be afraid to pick a fight with anyone. She’s the Calamity Jane of indie rock, in other words. “(I’ve Come to Notice an Error)” grumbles like the theme from Jaws with a scratchy guitar line, as the dark twang of “We’re Waiting” is wickedly sweet.
Now, I know I’ve been raving about Pearl up to this point but Haunted Water has such an awesomely unique sound that which makes it imperative that the press doesn’t give Lion Fever a No Doubt complex. Pearl is placed alongside three talented musicians whose counterpoise and precise chemistry give this band the distinctly unique sound it has. They showcase it well on “Defeat” and the sludgy pulse of “On Your Street.” Jason LaVeris’s nominal, yet intense drum beats set the mood on “A Little Silver” whereas bassist Abraham Jay Torres lays down the creeping throbs in the impending doom of “She Sleeps” and the masochistic rock approach of the Raveonettes with “I’d Love to Leave.”
Lion Fever has already paid their dues on their first album alone and they have a lot more to offer for the scene in their native Portland, Oregon than the arrogant pack of prima donnas who make up the Dandy Warhols. They will strike the world out of leftfield and eventually force the Dim Mak label to put Bloc Party on the shelf because the time for Lion Fever to shine is now. A truly great album to get the summer started.
Patti Smith – Easter
The Moaners – Dark Snack
Gun Club – Fire of Love