Don’t Act Like You Know Me
When I was a teenager, rock radio had its fair share of female voices. Shirley Manson, Gwen Stefani, and Courtney Love all wrote songs and fronted bands full of men, and gave us songs like “I’m Just a Girl” and “Celebrity Skin.” D’Arcy Wrentz played a mean bass for Smashing Pumpkins. On the indie front, Tori Amos, Liz Phair, and to some extent, Alanis Morrisette, all gave voice to the issues women face through guitar-heavy songs. They took over the tradition from the greats like Joan Jett and the Runaways, Blondie, and Tina Weymouth of the Talking Heads.
In the new millennium, female-fronted rock, like a lot of music, has been manufactured within an inch of itself. Avril Lavigne, a talented pop songwriter, became "punk" because she wore a hoodie with a skull on it. Kelly Clarkson attempted to get darker on My December, but when sales didn’t crack the multi-millions, she went back to disposable pop. Amy Lee, the powerful singer-songwriter of the pop-metal powerhouse Evanescence, self-destructed under the pressure of a follow-up album. Pink tried to be the rock voice, but her pop sensibility has overridden everything else. No new female-fronted rock music has stepped up to talk to the next generation.
All of this brings me to Ten Year Vamp. The Don't Act Like You Know Me album cover features only Debbie Gabrione, who is credited as singer, lyricist, and guitar player. She is a viable option for the next voice of female-fronted rock, even if this album is a bit more like Kelly Clarkson than Shirley Manson. Her lyrics speak of dissatisfaction with her life, needing to start over, and her inability to reach the person who she loves, but more importantly, she writes about her shortcomings. In particular, “Pleasures (That I Call Mine)” is a great rock song where she boasts that “I like to step it up/baby, to intensify/it’s just what I do/And it’s my choice what I do/And who I do it to.” Her attitude, her independence, and her enjoyment of her life are all a great example for young women, and the song's power chords and “whoa” chorus are wonderful.
The rest of album is not as strong, but still a good listen. “Rockstar” is a nice mediation on being a singer that “hates the sound of her own voice,” and “Call it” has some interesting thoughts about fate and destiny. Don't Act Like You Know Me has many of the limitations of other debut albums. The band is still working to find their own voice, but when they do, they will be unstoppable.