The Bangs’ six-song EP, Call and Response, the follow-up to 2000’s Sweet Revenge, finds the Olympia-based trio rocking out with a cleaner sound than ever. On the EP, the Bangs manage to condense the elements of Sweet Revenge that make their brand of straightforward rock above average – catchy songs, a sense of urgency, and energetic vocals – into fewer than seventeen minutes.
Kill Rock Stars labelmate Justin Trosper (Unwound, Replikants) recorded Call and Response at a farmhouse in Olympia. Comparing the Bangs to Bikini Kill, another labelmate, may be blatantly obvious, especially since Bikini Kill’s Tobi Vail is Bangs bassist/vocalist Maggie Vail’s sister, but such a comparison is not entirely unwarranted. While the Bangs generally rely on a beefier guitar sound and more defined song structures, the commanding, infectious, and to-the-point tracks on Call and Response are reminiscent of Bikini Kill’s The Singles, that band’s slickest and most accessible work. Maggie Vail and guitarist Sarah Utter both sing, giving the lyrics greater sonic weight and pushing the listener to sing along.
The title track shouts back at street harassers, the vocals oscillating between enraged and introspective in just over two minutes. Like Le Tigre’s “On Guard,” “Call and Response” deals with women reclaiming their voices under verbal fire. Following the punchy, aggressive “New Scars,” “Kinda Good” slows and softens the pace, with drummer Peter David Connelly doing double duty on electric piano. The bouncy bass line and lots of “oh’s” and “no’s” on “Leave It Behind” almost evoke early Go-Go’s. With its successful incorporation of handclaps, a memorable chorus, and a solid, simple guitar riff, the disc’s closer, “Dirty Knives,” serves as a good example of what Bangs sound like at their best. Call and Response pretty much only loses points because of its brevity, which doesn’t allow much time for the duds to creep in. If Bangs can sustain this kind of momentum on their next full-length, it should be a treat.