FABULOUS DISASTER with the REAL McKENZIES at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, October 25). $7. 416-598-4753. Rating: NNNNN
Picture an alternate universe where instead of smarmy, slicked-back, suited execs and birdbrained radio personalities, Joey Ramone and Joan Jett are the head honchos of the Popstars selection committee. Candidates for the supergroup are chosen based on true talent, how they hold their liquor and sheer punk-rock power, of course.Instead of the pop pablum of Sugar Jones, the Popstar pride in this universe would be Fabulous Disaster -- or Fab D, as they're known to ardent fans. Four ball-bustin' babes from San Fran, Fab D churn out seething melodic punk with knock-your-socks-off instrumental prowess, Buzzcocks attitude and bright, shiny Go-Gos harmonies. Bassist Mr. Nancy describes their sound as an "iron fist in a velvet glove."
The ladies of Fabulous Disaster are the real deal in more ways than one. Their bio includes an ominous description of their involvement in the SF fetish scene and their familiarity with the biker/pill-popper lifestyle. The official line on the band's origins cites a drunken conversation in a seedy bar after some rock show, but top-secret sources suggest that the story is even seedier. I've even heard that the band members met in prison.
"I'll never tell," chuckles the Marlboro-and-Jack-Daniels-voiced Mr. Nancy nervously, on the phone from somewhere in the Canadian Prairies. "We're wanted by the Canadian customs officials now, though." Care to elaborate?
"Uh, you have to bear with me -- I'm a little hungover today," she moans. "Basically, they were trying to extort money out of us, and we weren't gonna stand for that. We walked back to the U.S. side of the border and got this guy to open up a back gate for us so we could sneak into Canada. Running from the Canadian cops and screwing over customs is the most punk-rock thing I've ever done. Fuck those customs guys."
Nancy, vocalist Laura Litter, drummer Sally Gess and guitarist Lynda Mandolyn (all of whom have done their time in the Bay Area punk scene) released their debut full-length album, Put Out Or Get Out, earlier this year on Pink & Black (the estrogen-heavy imprint of Fat Wreck Chords). The disc is, in a word, fabulous. Tracks range from the sweetly poppy Down The Drain to the gleeful L7-ish ranthem Rich Bitches In Volvos Piss Me Off, which is based on a true story.
The ladies of Fab D maintain a raw edge without shirking in the skill department. Nancy handles dizzying runs on her bass, and Gess sustains a solid beat.
The downside of being an all-female ensemble, however, is ghettoization.
"Do people make a point of pointing out that all-male bands are boy bands? I don't think so. And they don't dwell on who the boys are sleeping with. We're strong ladies and we play music well, and that's it. Yeah, some of us are queer and some aren't. But it's irrelevant to the music."
Amen, sister. Now, about that prison rumour?
"No comment. Sure, I've been around, but let's leave some things a mystery."