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Danny and the Parkins Sisters

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Danny and the Parkins Sisters

Danny and the Parkins Sisters

Chapter Music

Anybody can write a song about a lover, a departed friend, or some political outrage, but it takes an extra special band to pen a song that treats The China Syndrome like a juvenile delinquent flick. “This song is about a conversation between Jane Fonda and a nuclear power plant,” offers Danny Vinik during his introduction to “Thermodynamics.” What follows is a gorgeously hapless jolt of attitude. Over nothing but a jittery electric guitar strum, Vinik and one of his two bandmates—Debra and Beverly Parkins—sing in the impudent voice of a disaffected reactor: “I got me some money and I got me some fuel/ I’m gonna go heat up when it’s cool/ So cool.”

Did the late 1970s and early 1980s just make better sarcastic art-dorks? Formed sometime in early 1980s San Francisco and disbanded by 1983, Danny and the Parkins Sisters eked out fractured gems of anti-social pop/punk, delivered with skeletal impertinence. The single electric guitar might be in tune, but it’s really there to provide a ramshackle melody. For rhythm, any old whacking surface will do. Hand-claps and finger-snaps work too. And some keyboards and some kind of electronic noise maker doohickey provides squishes here and there. Vocally, the Parkins sisters can sing—or at least demand attention when they open their mouths. Vinik has the over-everything charisma of Johnny “Slash” fronting Open 24 Hours in the grocery store deli. Think Young Marble Giants direct, Beat Happening insouciant, and absolutely irresistible if you’ve ever had a soft spot for this sort of thing.

This self-titled release—put out by Melbourne’s Chapter Music, which in recent years has not only been cranking out new releases by Fabulous Diamonds and Kath Bloom but has been reissuing great old Aussie punk/postpunk, prog, and rock, such as the sublime Primitive Calculators—compiles the band’s 1982 eight-song mini-album, two demos, and a handful of live material. It bounces from the winsome anthem “Girls Rule” (its bulletproof theme: boys suck) to the kinda/sorta ballad “Pay for Love” (“If you’ve got the money/ put it on a layaway”), from the ingeniously comic (“Thermodynamics”) to outright irreverently political (“Meat Market,” as wonderfully deadpan as Pussy Galore’s “HC Rebellion”). And then there’s “War (Is on Your Doorstep),” the sort of time-capsule work of genius that should be heating up the summer on countless mixtapes. Part cheerleader chant, part tribal stomp, “War” is a satirical kill-shot straight through the heart of cool-kid posturing and consumerist complacency. Pure fun. (Bret McCabe)

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