Spanking Charlene Dismissed with a Kiss

At first blush, the marriage of singer Charlene McPherson to Eric "Roscoe” Ambel’s hands-on production technique might appear to be totally appropriate and potentially predictable: hard-edged rock chick singing about push-up bras and pussy with Ambel’s patented garage rock stamp. But it’s not entirely so. In search of their own sound, singers McPherson and Mo Goldner trade off disparate takes on the punk sneer of Deborah Harry ("I Hate Girls”), the rock sass of Pat Benetar ("Pussy Is Pussy”) and the cow punk attitude of the Scorchers ("Fidgety”), serving to confuse even as they entertain. Despite the definite barroom energy, things work best when slowed down. "Easy To Be Sad” reveals the dramatic power of McPherson’s voice as things take an acoustic, country-hued turn, while "Groundhogs Day” gets an Ambel/Stones-y treatment that stays tough but again showcases McPherson’s subtle power. The gentler "Leavin’” reveals McPherson’s vulnerability, recalling early Aimee Mann, with the guitars serving up a stinging contrast. The unquestionably beautiful "Behind,” an acoustic guitar-driven ballad that shows yet another seductive side to this honey-gilded siren, makes the disc’s most powerful statement, contrary to the band’s predilection for high-torque, ass-kicking delivery. Despite a somewhat psychotic lack of focus, there’s excitement in discovering a talent so fresh and bursting with potential. Dismiss at your peril.

(Spanking Charlene, www.spankingcharlene.com)