The Right to Be Italian

Holly & the Italians

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The Right to Be Italian Review

by Rev. Keith A. Gordon

It's only fitting that Holly Beth Vincent of Holly & the Italians would eventually make a record with Joey Ramone (the pair revisiting "I Got You Babe" on a 1982 single). In many ways, Vincent could have passed for Ramone's younger sister (or maybe a kissing cousin). The Right to Be Italian providing the kind of three-chord punk-pop cheap thrills that Joey tried to create with the Ramones. Vincent reinvents the '60s girl-group aesthetic with a snotty attitude and smoldering sexuality, her voice perfect for this sort of material, deep and throaty and uniquely endearing (much like Ramone's). Vincent's lyrics are a whip-smart mix of goofy punk nihilism, high-school romance, and pop-culture references, delivered with all the subtlety of a scorned girlfriend. Written during the band's lengthy tour of the U.K., "I Wanna Go Home" is an ode to the fast-food joints and all-night stores of America, a big drumbeat and great harmonies supporting fond memories of the "land of opportunity." Vincent's hard rock riffs drive "Youth Coup," her lyrics mixing John Lennon's "you say you want a revolution?" with the Stones' "Satisfaction" in a play on teenage angst, frustration, and boredom. The album's first single, the Brill Building-styled ballad "Miles Away," was written by bassist Mark Sidgwick and offers some of Vincent's most compelling vocals, the song's subtle construction requiring a greater range of emotion on the part of the singer. A remake of the Chiffons' "Just for Tonight" is spot-on with swelling musical crescendos and soulful vocals while "Means to a Den" is an edgy '60s-styled rocker with psychedelic studio gimmickry and a garage rock vibe. "Tell That Girl to Shut Up" is Vincent's shining moment of glory, however. It's the song that got the band signed, a three-minute slice of pop/rock perfection that should have been a hit (and did hit later for Transvision Vamp, Wendy James a pale copy of the vibrant Ms. Vincent). With just the perfect balance of vulnerability and self-righteous anger, an ultracool chorus, and a timeless, time-tested beat behind the lyrics, "Tell That Girl to Shut Up" is one of the great lost singles of rock music. A spiritual godmother to distaff rockers like the Donnas or the Eyeliners, Vincent would never again make music as innocent, stylized and outright fun as she did on The Right to Be Italian.

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