One-Eyed Doll is not just another Texas-based power-rock duo that sounds much bigger than its headcount.
Fans of The Blackhearts, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Missing Persons, and similar outfits may be pleasantly surprised by what’s on this Austin-based band’s latest, Hole. Except for some occasional overdubs, the album is a live studio recording. Frontwoman Kimberly Freeman’s more-sweet-than-sinister vocals and her impressive metal-tinged fretwork are buoyed by a scorching rhythm section, also known as Scott Sutton. The album’s tone is encapsulated in the first track, “Suicidal Serenade,” the most creatively acrobatic of the baker’s dozen of tracks here. The brief homage to Jimi Hendrix’s guitar-based national anthem in the intro hints at the irreverence to come. Freeman, a kind of female version of The Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra, nails her vocal performance.
Her lyrics are laced with darkness, mostly humorous, and often empowering in a Riot Grrrl kind of way. Check out “Scapegoat,” in which the singer finally declares her independence from an abusive beau, and also “Black Forest,” a rather thematic approach but one that is more Tuscadero than Sleater-Kinney. Although Freeman’s voice is good, signature flourishes — like the tremolo effects on “Meth Monster” and “Hoochie Mama” — lend it a unique quality. A problem is that sometimes her stylistic flights are buried in the production or a little too hesitant in contrast to specific arrangements or the overall style of the songs. That said, there are plenty of moments on Hole when the unadorned, sweet, jewel-toned purity of her voice is simply dead-on, as on the dirge-like ballad “Master.” With a few tweaks, One-Eyed Doll could easily go Big Time, mainly because of Freeman, a model-beautiful, charismatic, semi-darkwave frontwoman who has the ability to shred mercilessly and has a decidedly kick-ass voice, and also because of the novelty of a one-man rhythm section. The overhead costs for supporting a two-person band are probably not all that much, but the demands of pulling off the songs on Hole in a live setting warrant hazard pay.- Tom Urquhart