The Donnas


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It's hard not to think that "bitchin'" has been used to describe the Donnas' music many a time, so it's an appropriate enough title for their seventh album. At the very least, it has a better ring than The Donnas Turn 27, but that might have been a more truthful summation of this record, because advanced age is beginning to hit the band big time. What was once snappy and energetic is turning a little bit heavier and sludgier, a sure sign of high mileage, and that's all the more evident because the band is doing the same thing it always has: turning out party anthems -- party anthems that are seeming a little less ironic each time around. It's hard to call this a holding pattern since the Donnas never, ever aspired to art, but this isn't quite like the Ramones, where the signature sound revealed new wrinkles along the way. This is more like the band is pounding out new tunes every two or three years whether it needs to or not. Working bands are always appreciated, but it's hard not to wish that there was a little more joie de vivre on Bitchin'. After all, if you're gonna be a party band, the least you can be is fun, something that used to come easily to the Donnas but now is a struggle on this maddeningly uneven album. When the Donnas indulge in their fetish for '80s metal -- whether it's on the Judas Priest pulse of "Wasted," the Def Leppard lifts on "Save Me," the arena-filling thump of "Here for the Party" and "Smoke You Out," or even "Don't Wait Up for Me," which comes close to ripping off the riff to "Don't You Wanna Touch Me" from Joan Jett, their biggest influence -- they fulfill the trashy promise of their title, but this doesn't happen often enough. The problem is, the Donnas once rocked as if they were tanked to the gills but they now sound like they're playing with ferocious hangovers they just can't shake -- and it's hard to have a good party if the threat of the morning after hangs over the whole affair.

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