Northern Transmissions review of 'Blueprint' by Alice Bag

Don Giovanni Records

8.5/10

Alice Bag

Blueprint

Alice Bag is a genuine pioneer in the world of punk, and she’s done it across so many decades it will probably be impossible to ever figure out how she influenced who. On her latest record, Bag manages to capture both modern and vintage spirits of punk rock for a record that bears the essence of all of them. Though some of Bag’s melodies do feel a little too overdone and familiar, her messages are so powerful that it’s rarely a major issue.

Where so many rockers young and old tend to end up emulating rock fury rather than feeling genuine, you can feel every ounce of struggle on “Turn It Up” as Bag’s phlegm really sounds like it hits the mic on every scream. Shrieking guitars and the song’s punk spirit feel just as excited as they do angry, and leaves the song with a burning, riotous energy. The discontent of “Invisible” is much more subdued, as Bag tells the stories of a dejected and forgotten soul trying to navigate their own life. While the song does feel really long given all the fast tracks on the record, the instrumentation continuously expands to keep it from growing dull.

The grimy shredding of “77” is unrelenting and heavy, as Bag calls on women she inspired and her peers to make some poignant political rock. Even along the more surf-like moments, Bag and Kathleen Hanna’s crazy chemistry makes the song a true standout on the album. Though the ska horns of “Stranger” can feels somewhat dated at this point, Bag avoids many of the melodic clichés that slowly made the genre stale. Bag also tells a shocking story about evolving with the times, and turns the song into an interesting autobiographical story.

“Shame Game” runs with a kitschy bit of doo-wop bounce, that can feel more generic than it deserves. If anything it’s only really noticeable thanks to the frantic funk that her rhythm section brings on every verse and break, which feels noticeably new for her. While “Etched Deep” does feel melodically just as familiar, it does a lot with its sizzling production and performance to make it feel immediate. Like many of Bag’s songs, the track’s stunning story digs into the human condition in painful detail to elevate the song.

A raw 90’s riot spirit rolls through “Blueprint” and turns its horns into a more powerful echo of its angry voices. Fast and to the point, the track is also full of so many atypical little sounds and ways to communicate its main hooks that you’ll be just as mesmerized as excited. “The Sparkling Path” rides this energy with a bit of Sleater-Kinney-like riffing and burning rock chords to bounce between dynamic choruses and heavy drum breaks. While the track rides a bit of the same predictable progressions as a few of the songs on the record, its loose writing makes it feel more lively.

Along with its Spanish lyrics, “Se Cree Joven” has some of the most interesting writing on the record with its unique grooves and instrumentation. Mixed in with all of it, Bag’s story about avoiding labels and rejecting other peoples’ ideals is inspiring no matter what language you speak. Though some of the folksy atmosphere of “Adrift” has been done to death in indie-rock as of late, Bag slowly brings in a lot of heavy waves of noise to give her own face to the sound. While it comes in as a final track, there’s so much poetry and epic writing on “White Justice” as an epic, extended political ballad that it should be getting much more prominent placement on the record.

Words by Owen Maxwell