The cover photo on their new album, The Donnas Turn 21, displays all four of the (apparently) drink-legal women in a club booth, wearing halter tops and lounging behind a table full of spirits. The image is no doubt intended to entice those boys not yet old enough to enter such an establishment, but it's completely misleading. The Donnas are not just about sexual appeal and suggestive lyricism.
While undeniably cute, the quartet (straight out of Palo Alto, California) also manages to rock harder than most of today's boy bands. Proof is found throughout the literally minded Turn 21, a slickly produced riff-fest that sounds as if it were mixed by an AC/DC-era Mutt Lange.
Most of the songs focus on partying, sex and other subjects sure to boost the Donnas' horny fan base, male and female alike. And while the band (Donnas A, C, F and R) may indeed enjoy the pleasures of beer and body rubs, their tongues are planted firmly in their cheeks. "I'm tired of hittin' on you," sings a sardonic Donna A on "Do You Wanna Hit It." "It's about time to be gettin' on you. All messed up, and I don't care, so come on, take off your underwear."
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Whether you find them hot or just admire their gusto, these women know the basics of rock and roll, and they deliver it with a sense of fun that's been absent since Creed hit the charts. While it's easy to lump the Donnas alongside such similar-minded acts as the Ramones or the Runaways, comparisons also can be made to some of the girls' biggest influences, Mötley Crüe and KISS.
Of course, the pseudointellectual indie crowd will decry such posturing and immediately label the whole package as kitsch. While there may be some evidence of camp -- exhibit A: a recent cover of Judas Priest's "Living After Midnight" -- there's also sincerity behind the polished guitar crunch and catchy pop hooks. Such earnestness is commendable, as is the Donnas' youthful energy. The bar-ready band certainly will be in full throttle on stage, so it might be wise to catch the Donnas before the thrill of alcohol and turning 21 wears off.
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