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Pop Music Review

Old school rock with primo Donnas

Their teen-rebellion sound hasn't changed much since their debut album in 1998, but what's wrong with that?

January 28, 2003|Natalie Nichols | Special to The Times

Palo Alto rockers the Donnas are only in their early 20s, but the quartet's El Rey Theatre performance on Saturday was strictly from the old school of sex, drugs and power chords.

It's all in fun for Donna A. (vocals), Donna R. (guitar), Donna F. (bass) and Donna C. (drums), who've had instruments in their hands and sassy remarks on their tongues pretty much since the onset of puberty. The aggressive-chick stance on their four indie albums made them an underground sensation, and now, reflecting the recent major-label garage-rock frenzy, the band is signed to Atlantic Records, which put out "Spend the Night" last fall.

Not much has changed since 1998's "American Teenage Rock & Roll Machine." The group still blends Ramones-style 1-2-3-4 punk with swaggering heavy metal a la Motley Crue and AC/DC. The four have honed their craft to a slick, powerful peak, and the 50-minute set was full of cowbell-bangin', guitar-thunderin', bass-thumpin' energy.

New songs such as "It's on the Rocks" brimmed with the same suburban boredom and youthful restlessness of such older numbers as "Do You Wanna Hit It." Indeed, the group's tendency to repeat itself proved as slowly wearying as Donna A.'s repeated shouts of "How you guys doin' tonight?" One couldn't help wishing they'd sing about something deeper than boys, cars, parties and trouble, but, despite the apolitical abandon of it all, their unabashed appetites were still liberating.

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