[TypicalGirls] meltdown

Dina Hornreich dinahornreich at earthlink.net
Mon Jun 7 16:29:34 EDT 2004

Sharon was kind enough to point in the direction of this article. I think it's worth posting to the group as well as linking (for meltdown) to on my page:

I'm wondering if "The Map" is still in print (this article is 3 years old)...


by Julianne Shepherd

What were you doing in high school? I was making a horrible cut-and-paste skateboarding zine and smoking a truly embarrassing amount of dope. You know, a "creative underachiever"-- smart and pissed off, but too solipsistic to know what to do about it. I think a lot of alienated youths are like that, especially if they're from small towns--feeling disenfranchised early on, but not coming into their own until much, much later. 

Which explains one reason I admire Meltdown. They were not only politically aware in their teen years, but were unafraid to push their talent to its most hair-raising limits. They were Washington, D.C. high-schoolers in 1995 and 1996, when Fugazi's Guy Picciotto and Brendan Canty asked if they could record their album. And yeah, while those punk rock heroes making such a request is pretty fucking cool, when you examine Meltdown's music, it's really just an aside. A spot of trivia. Some people's names in the liner notes. 

That's because this high school band, Meltdown, made some of the most imperative and incendiary punk rock that has ever come out of D.C. Sonia Brenner, Fiona Griffin, Amy Heneveld, Raquel Vogl--four crash-boom ladies armed with three guitars and a drum kit. Meltdown first released a now out-of-print 7" record in 1997 on Slowdime. The Map is a recent vinyl-only re-release of 13 live tracks (recorded by Picciotto and Canty at the Pirate House and D.C.'s famed club, The Black Cat) on Portland-based label Archigramophone (also the home of Heneveld's current band, Emergency). 

The Map opens with Meltdown's theme song, "Introduction," featuring Heneveld screeching gutturally and unintelligibly like a crazed bird--"oh-ah-yuh-uh-uh-yeah-oh-ah"--and a malignant symphony of trapezoidally clacking guitars. Gradually, as the whole group screams, "1-2-MELTDOWN," every rule (both musical and otherwise) is blown away, stomped on, stretched, salted, and strung up. Listening to it gives you the type of adrenaline rush that occurs when you're doing something subversive and important--positive action in place of negative reaction. 

Every song on The Map unfolds like that. Heneveld is a dangerous fawn--her voice is tender and she's obviously very young, yet she uses it to taunt and yelp so urgently, you feel like she could crush you underneath its weight. On "El Gato Blanco," she sings in Spanish to the tune of "Ring Around the Rosy," eventually erupting into a powerful "Nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nah-NAH!" On "Alien Autopsy" and "Postman," Heneveld trades vocal duties with Fiona Griffin, who evokes a desperately punk rock abandon similar to Tobi Vail-sung Bikini Kill songs. I hesitate to make that comparison, however, because Meltdown should not be categorized as R.G., or anything else for that matter. Because, aside from the stirring dichotomy (impetuous yet sweet-faced youths) and ecstasy (like in "Night Bird Nightmare," where the whole band growls and chants like witches) they invoke, Meltdown was an astonishingly technical band. They came up with connected yet warring riffs that have hardly been duplicated or even alluded to since. And, if I may remind you again, they were 17. 

Meltdown's very existence was important. They were an all-girl high school band supported by their surroundings, and not exploited for their youth or beauty like many teenage "punk rock" bands these days. They were women driven by their own will, talent, intelligence, and irreverence. I, for one, am totally inspired. 

You can purchase The Map at local independent record stores or at www. archigramophone.com. If you want to tell me what you were/are doing in high school, email julianne at portlandmercury.com. 


dinahornreich at earthlink.net

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