If I judged records on the album artwork I received, this one might’ve gone straight in the garbage bin, with its white-on-black hand-scribbled drawing that looks like something I might’ve done in Wite-Out on the cover of a notebook in middle school. Luckily, I didn’t pitch it, as I like this album more each time I listen to it and it doesn’t seem to be the cover art they’re sticking with…
Stiffed are fronted by a hipswinging, headbopping girlpunk idol who might be nearly as rad and far less over-hyped than Karen O. Santi White sounds like a badder Gwen Stefani, and that’s bad as in good. Take the Orange County out and add a healthy dose of Bad Brains (bassist Daryl Jenifer produced Burned Again) and you’ve got her voice, candy sweet sometimes and sassy but never bratty, walking a line most girl punk singers can’t touch. She doesn’t have to over-pluck her brows and wear tons of makeup to project badass, and she wouldn’t be caught dead remaking a song from Fiddler on the Roof.
With dangerous, thrumming guitars, funky bass and rock-steady beats, Stiffed reference the Clash and Blondie, and are poppy without being teeny-bopperish and use reggae rhythms while staying miles away from ska. No Doubt is definitely the obvious comparison, but taken back to the street and away from the bling and platinum pop records. The reference gets less obvious each time through the album.
“A Day With Andrew” has proven the catchiest song on the album for me, popping into my head in the shower or at work, but I prefer the lovely “Your Voice” with its slow-burn guitars and head-nodding rhythm, the Devo-droning “Like An Itch,” the dreamy “Hold Tight” and the blistering “Soon Enough.” In a world of synth-clogged ’80s clones and shaggy-haired ’60s-’70s rockers, Stiffed are mining a different sound from the past and serving it up fresh.
Their press kit says, “Specialty: Making getting fucked over sound fun,” and that’s about what their record sounds like. It’ll make you wanna dance.