Jack Off Jill – Sexless Demons and Scars (1997)

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My first introduction to JoJ was actually live when they opened for Psyhotica and Genitorturers at 9:30 club in 1998. I actually remember the singer, Jesicka, pushing past me in the ladies room and thinking, “geez, crazy bitch.” And she was. Probably is. But not really in a bad way.

So, their live performance was pretty awesome – they were all dolled up like misfit schoolgirls and there was much screaming and some bad-ass razor-play. As always with me, watching girls totally rock out un-selfconciously is an inspiration, so I bought the album right there from their merch table. I later got to chat with the band after their set and they were totally gracious and engaging, but more on that later.

The album itself is good, but not great. The music is standard post-grunge pre-new-metal fare aligned with the Marilyn Manson style, nothing objectionable, but nothing that really knocked me outta my socks, either. The chick singing ups the ante (and mad ups to girls who could play their instruments well backing the singer in this particular sub-genre) with a voice that is sweet and studied enough to sound musical but a scream born out of such passion and rage that it felt genuine. The lyrics are overall clever, but the major problem with this album is that it’s too gimmicky. From the over-the-top Christian mockery (“Angels Fuck”) to the none-too-subtle innuendo (“My Cat”) it smacks of what an ex-Aunt would refer to as shock value.

In that sense, I feel like they were going after a kind of buzz, almost certainly on the coattails of Mr. Manson and friends, that ultimately cheapened what could have been an amazing album. Songs like “Girl Scout” and “Poor Impulse Control” are smart and strong and emotional – songs I am never ashamed to blast and scream along to. And even the seemingly crass “Cumdumpster” has a message that to me totally kicks ass, “Go ahead, call me a cunt, I am impervious to your verbal abuse.” But with the gimicky-ness, this is an album that I definitely have to be in the mood for.

The truth is, these girls are freaking awesome. They play their instruments and they hold their own in a dude’s world. And when I got to talk to them and hang out with them, they spent a lot of time talking about how much they loved other girls and supported other girl bands and they got started out really as groupies who were fed up with being backstage, not on-stage. I don’t begrudge them taking advantage of some free publicity at a time when any band could use some and I know that there are folks out there who just eat up the shock-value-type rock. Even me, sometimes.

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