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New Pick of the Week

The Muffs "The Muffs" Warner Bros.

July 15, 1993|MIKE BOEHM

Wanna have a summer rock 'n' roll party? Pick up Rhino's "The Kinks Greatest Hits" compilation. Then "Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy," the collection of Who singles from the 1960s.

Add "The Muffs," and you'll have enough nonstop, rocking, bopping, popping stuff to keep almost any generation happy all day and all of the night.

On its debut album, this Los Angeles foursome (a couple of the members have Orange County roots) folds the time-line so that the mid-'60s British Invasion overlaps the punk incursion of the late '70s.

The Muffs' deepest roots are in the spontaneous, hard-rocking-for-the-raw-exuberance-of-it innocence of the early Kinks and Who (with scattered nods as well to the early Beatles, Phil Spector and Tommy James and the Shondells). But it's the '60s as seen through the filter of '70s punk rock, which tried to get back to that era's simplicity but had to make a self-conscious effort to do it. Like the Ramones, the Muffs play power pop that's more primitive and in-the-garage than anything their '60s forebears would have let out of the studio, yet equally as infectious.

Kim Shattuck, the Muffs' singer, main songwriter and lead guitarist, and rhythm guitarist Melanie Vammen were in the Pandoras, the all-female band led by the late Paula Pierce. While Pierce tried to prove that girls could match boys when it came to singing rudely lascivious songs about sex, Shattuck keeps things on a more romantic plane, or at least is less explicit when things get heated.

Her singing is winningly sweet and unstudied, and free of the sort of calculated attitudinizing you get from the grunge-rocking female bands (the males, too, for that matter). It's hard to imagine one of the tough women in L7 or Babes in Toyland singing lines like this one from "Don't Waste Another Day": "In all my life, I wanted someone who looked at me as if I were a queen." Shattuck is willing to get carried away with the romance that's inherent in the innocent pop she loves.

But she is no fool, and nobody's passive victim. She has defense mechanisms in place for the inevitable letdowns and put-downs that come with the romantic search (love, on "The Muffs," is usually soured or unrequited; often, it's Shattuck herself who sours first or fends off an avid but unwanted suitor). Her primary defense mechanism is a low, curdling growl, which rises to a full-on scream when she really gets riled. It's used frequently enough to balance her normally girlish delivery, but not so often that you begin to doubt whether she really means it.

The Muffs' point isn't romantic confession or catharsis, though, so much as rocking to turn life's highs and lows alike into an excuse to shimmy and sing. Except for a couple of thrash-punk throwaways that last a matter of seconds, there isn't a track here that doesn't deliver.

The Muffs play an all-ages show on July 22 at the 8 1/2 club in Fullerton. Information: (714) 323-8683.

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