Upon receiving The Keep Aways‘ self-titled debut, I immediately got a mental picture of a sweet-but-sassy Kill Rock Stars-style band, or maybe more like the Donnas, picturing kids playing a schoolyard game of keep-away. After a track or two on the album, though, my mental picture is more akin to a growled warning through bared teeth: Keep Away. Not that you shouldn’t listen to The Keep Aways, but this band is dangerous.
From the opening howls of “File It Away,” this Duluth threesome establishes their full-on punk assault, with fierce, metallic guitar, crashing drums and vocals somewhere between Agent M of Tsunami Bomb and Brody Dalle of the Distillers. In other words, a gritty, snarling, spitting rasp—but she can sing, too.
In fact, my main criticism of this band is that at times the deliberately ragged vocals are too practiced, too “I want to be a punk singer so I have to sound like I’m spitting.” Singer Mindy Johnson obviously has a voice to work with, and forcing it to be more guttural than necessary isn’t going to give them added street punk cred. Primal screams should be a bit more primal and less studied.
Other than that, though, I like what I’m hearing. Good, gimmick-less female hard rock bands are hard to come by, and The Keep Aways aren’t trading on their looks or gender—they don’t need to. They’re vicious. And I mean that in the best way.