(Stick Shift Records, CD, digital download)
Earlier this year, Kelly Riel, bassist for local riot-grrrl punk band Doll Fight!, founded a new record label, Stick Shift Records. The imprint’s stated mission is to actively promote the presence of women in punk — traditionally a male-dominated arena — both locally and regionally. To that end, SSR presents its debut offering, First Gear: Feminism in the Northeast (a compilation). The 13-song collection features bands from all six New England states, as well as New York. But inclusion on the comp is based on more than geographical requirements. Every group on First Gear not only shares SSR’s DIY and feminist ideals but has at least one woman or one queer member. In that sense, SSR’s debut comp represents kind of an exclusive club, one made even more so given just how hard it rocks from start to finish.
Following a brief intro track, the comp gets under way with a blistering cut by Connecticut’s Damn Broads called “In Their Hands.” A vitriolic, high-tensioned rant against, well, pretty much everything, it’s a worthy opener.
NYC’s, self-described “queer grumpy transsexual punx” Penguin lighten the mood with a catchy, 1990s-tinged track called “Not Finished.” That tune sets up “Damage,” by Massachusetts-based pop-punks Potty Mouth, who are likely the best-known band on the comp.
First Gear’s first Green Mountain State offering doesn’t come until southern Vermont’s Get a Grip check in with the grinding hardcore anthem “Words of Hate.” Even considering the blunt approach favored by most bands on the comp, it’s the most explicitly aggro cut of the bunch.
Riel’s own band, Doll Fight!, drop in two tracks later on the previously unreleased scorcher “Swarm.” Snarling and bass driven, it’s a comp highlight. Burlington’s Poxy round out the Vermont delegation with the brisk, brief “Planning My Funeral.”
While the trio of VT bands hold up well alongside their regional counterparts, the comp’s best moments generally do come from beyond our borders. Those include “Cool,” a Bikini Kill-lite cut by NYC trio Thundera, and “Antlers” from Connecticut’s 404ERROR, the latter perhaps the most polished song on the comp.
Still, Vermont is well represented on First Gear, which is a roundly impressive collection of punk and hardcore music and a fine introduction to the state’s newest imprint, Stick Shift Records.
First Gear: Feminism in the Northeast (A Compilation) on Stick Shift Records is available as a name-your-price download at stickshiftrecords.bandcamp.com.