Le Butcherettes, led by the vividly magnetic and uncompromising Mexican-American Teri Gender Bender, released its 3rd full-length, A Raw Youth, this past September on Ipecac Records. Teri and the rest of the band recorded the album in El Paso, Texas with long-time producer Omar Rodriguez Lopez. A Raw Youth bristles with intensity, but also charms with smoother, more tuneful melodies. Le Butcherettes’ previous platters were rife with aurally off-putting noise and pacing, but that’s kept to a minimum here and more pop/rock-oriented song structures prevail. Teri also chose her artistic collaborators wisely, sharing “La Uva” with legend Iggy Pop and vocally blending with John Frusciante on guitar for “My Half”.
Teri is still as up-front as ever with her lyrics, trying to open the eyes and minds of people who are blind to the inequality and injustices that many face in this world. Teri has stated that the “youth” of the album’s title doesn’t refer to being young, but is instead about “…being resilient against so many of life’s struggles.” In each era there are rebels who challenge the oppressive status quo and inspire change for the better. Teri shines a light on these individuals through her words on A Raw Youth and her wild live performances – and she herself is a prime example of this type of personality.
On lead single “Shave The Pride”, which also opens the album, Teri expounds on the fact that if people would be less ego-driven and more open to the common good, then the world would be a better place. She’s backed by a tight and kickin’ rhythmic framework of roiling guitars, growling bass, and drums and cymbals turmoil. Teri’s vocals are at their peak on A Raw Youth and “Shave The Pride” displays her malleable tone and range as she swoops Polly Jean Harvey-like from direct exclamations to a fluttering, light tone. Her words say it all as she righteously roars “Take a step back / and shave that pride off / Take a second and open your mind.”
On the richly emotive “Reason To Die Young”, Teri sets up her bleak lyrics against a sleeker Verse, Chorus, Verse format. She expressively proclaims “The fight has just begun / No time to fall in love” and “In the middle of the night / we search for a reason to die young.”, capturing the nihilistic despair of youth caught up in extreme circumstances – whether it’s due to poverty, war, and/or emotional torment (from within or without) . She’s accompanied by equally emphatically played instruments, including propulsive guitar lines, a dynamic drum beat, and smashed cymbals.
“La Uva” darkly seethes with pent-up energy as sinuous and scraping instruments weave against a fuzzed-up drum beat. Teri and Iggy Pop share the spotlight and shadow each other with Iggy Pop declaring in a deep tone and Teri expounding in a higher register in Spanish. The mood, and sound, is sharp and menacing, but opens up more broadly on the animated chorus segments that expand with bashed drums and cymbals, burning guitar grind, and Teri and Iggy Pop’s twinned exclaimed vocals.
Teri gets “Lonely & Drunk” off to a spare start with her matter-of-fact vocal delivery supported by a sporadic drum beat, cymbal hits, and shaken rattles. She sing-talks about alienation, isolation, and a division between “you and us” and how “My kind is cut off from this world.” An emphatic, pulsing note runs through most of the song before the addition of other instruments which include brief stabs of guitar, a syncopated beat, and an even-tempo drum thump. The slow-growing sonics suddenly accelerate rapidly with Teri venting vehemently about a war commencing and that it’s “Killing the fire in me / Killing the earth in me.”
The bluntly titled, rousing “They Fuck You Over” is pure riot grrrl exclamations and exhilaration packaged in a pop song shape complete with “La-la-la” shout-alongs. A big, bouncing drum beat, cymbal shake, and gritty guitar cycle ride along with Teri’s sweeter vocals as she rails that “They’re always trying to fuck you over.” Album-ender “My Half” travels with a measured pace of squelching and zippy guitar motifs from John Frusciante as he mirrors the hummed sighs that comprise the song’s ambience. A mingling of many vocal lines – all of them Teri’s – radiates the surreal aura of getting lost in a chanting prayer. John breaks out on occasion, laying down a few fluidly played guitar patterns that meander around Teri’s misty, mysterious murmurs.