- Alt Rock
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Reviewed by Greg M. Schwartz
Twenty-one-year-old guitarist/vocalist and primary songwriter Nina Diaz has been fronting the band since she was 13 and is officially entering her prime here. Her captivating vocals have won high-profile fans like Joan Jett, Dave Navarro and the Smiths' Morrissey. Older sister Phanie Diaz plays drums, while longtime friend Jenn Silva holds down the low end, and they've grown into a tight rhythm section.
The band made a conscious effort during the writing process to dip further into their early '90s alt-rock influences and it shows. "Static Mind" is the first of several tracks to demonstrate this, with grungy guitars that come in with an electrifying effect during the chorus. "Baby Boy" jumps into some Sonic Youth territory with dirty, layered guitars and lots of energy as Diaz tips a cap to Kim Gordon.
"Vino" and "Joannie in the City" are both co-produced by label head Jett. "Vino" begins as a bluesy ballad before moving into a swinging rockabilly type of jam, a dance hall flavor that pops up again on "In the Day," but with Diaz' sultry vocals elevating the tune in a catchy direction. "Joannie in the City" is a groovy, upbeat rocker about being a strong woman who's out to do things her way in the music biz.
"Slaughter Lane" mixes things up with a bluesy vibe that sounds as if Johnny Cash and the 21st century Bob Dylan were conjured during the recording process. "Pleasure and Pain" builds slowly but surely, with Diaz wailing like a native medicine woman and laying down some tight harmonics that sound craftily grabbed from Billy Corgan or Dean DeLeo's bag of sonic tricks.
"Pink Lemonade" is another standout, a mid-tempo number with Silva laying down a melodic bass line for Nina Diaz to shine over, while strumming a clean guitar. The band moves back into full alt-rock power with "Empty Promise," a hard-hitting tune that reaches a Pearl Jam level of intensity. The rhythm section gets heavy as Nina Diaz knocks out some big chords and some of her strongest vocals. Diaz also lays on some great phase-shifting effects that make this track sparkle. A cover of Los Spitfires' "Ven Circa" wraps up the album with the band's first Spanish-language tune, a grungy yet still tasteful tribute to the band's Latina roots.
The element that unifies the diverse album is Nina Diaz' powerful vocals. Whether she's belting out a grungy rocker or bringing it down for romantic tunes like "El Monte" and "Trail," she's got a range and charisma that captivate on every tune and mark her as a superstar in waiting.