Orange claw hammer
Angora Machine Gun cuts and runs from punk orthodoxy
It’s Saturday night at Daddy O’s “hot rod” bar in Roseville. The club is packed with suburban lubeheads and transplanted Downtown punks. Angora Machine Gun loads in its gear, then occupies the tiny stage at the back of the room.
The music starts soft and pretty. The audience quiets down, its attention captured. The song picks up momentum and emotion. It—and the songs that follow—are well crafted; no generic soft/hard/soft/hard formula to be found. Instead, the band unfolds an evolving plotline that carries the audience through a wide spectrum of emotions.
Bass player Twig and drummer J.D. are as tight as a rhythm section can be. No surprise; the two bring to the stage 14 years of experience playing together in some of Sacramento’s more infamous hardcore punk bands, including Spinach and the Diseptikons. That long history has helped forge a bass-and-drum combo that operates like a pair of psychic twins.
Guitarist Aaron G, of the experimental art core band the Koi, is also fluent in hardcore, but he’s also prone to drawing from ’80s-era English stylists—Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, or the Cure’s frontman Robert Smith. Aaron’s spacey guitar effects and moody riffs, oddly enough, fit perfectly with the staccato hardcore guitar parts that frequently take their place. And his flailing, “I’m completely lost in what I’m doing” stage presence is a show in itself.
Fronting this versatile combination is singer/guitarist Allegra, who sounds like she’s listened to a lot of Patti Smith and PJ Harvey. She also pulls in a few literary sources to inform her intelligent, poetic lyrics, quoting the Beats, Kurt Vonnegut and even French author Arthur Rimbaud—one of Patti Smith’s muses—as inspiration. Allegra’s day job is in customer service, where she’s been known to make a line of customers wait so she can jot down a line or two that comes to her unexpectedly.
These lyrics Allegra delivers in a beautiful, deep voice that at times is reminiscent of the aforementioned Ms. Harvey, at other times of the Slits or X-Ray Spex as her passion borders on rage. Several women in the audience sing along word for word with Allegra, song after song.
The band’s passion for stylistic variety comes together fluidly. Pop radio, with its appetite for pop-culture fusion, has inadvertently taught us all that two great tastes do not necessarily taste great together—ska-punk and rap-rock, to name two disastrous combos. So it’s wonderful to witness a band that can combine diversity in a manner that comes across as natural and logical.
Nevertheless, any band that dares to experiment with something new, in a hardcore scene eager to brand “sellout” across the ass of any musician who lacks what it perceives as purity, runs the risk of, well, getting branded.
“We get a lot of crap,” Twig confesses.
“We’re not trying to make anybody happy,” Allegra adds, almost defensively.
J.D. points out that the judgmental, doctrinaire punks are the exception and not the rule. “I’ve had kids come up to us sporting mohawks,” he says, “and they’re all, ‘Whoa, that was cool,’ because they had an open mind. Ya know?”
Still, as in the past, the biggest sin for any band from an underground scene is success—and Angora Machine Gun seems poised to commit just such an act of blasphemy. The band has entered into a production deal with Pus Cavern Studio and manager Dave Park, best known for his work with the Deftones.
While it will be interesting to see what this relationship brings forth on record, Angora Machine Gun’s live show remains its main calling card. And the band stays true to its punk roots. Instead of playing 21-and-over bar shows, the band seeks out all-ages shows, in an effort to bring the music to the kids—a fan base too often forgotten by bands on their way up the ladder of success.
Angora Machine Gun remembers.