When the Go-Go's reunited briefly two years ago to tour a bit and add some new tracks to a retrospective collection, the band members griped about not getting enough respect for what they had accomplished during their early-'80s run.
Respect has to be earned continually, though, and no post-Go-Go's solo project did much to gild old memories--until now.
"The Delphines" is a slab of garage-rock glory that's grittier than the Go-Go's and just as catchy. The album is keyed by Kathy Valentine, the former Go-Go's guitarist, and singer-bassist Dominique Davalos, her sidekick from the Blue Bonnets, an uninspired roadhouse-style R&B; band that followed Valentine's misbegotten late-'80s shot at heavy metal. The Delphines used three sharp session drummers on the CD, including new wave hero Clem Burke, but have since recruited former Go-Go's drummer Gina Schock.
At Linda's Doll Hut in Anaheim recently, the L.A.-based trio coupled Davalos' cool, feline intensity with an unabashed and infectious sense of fun. (Watching Schock smile blissfully while she hammered at her drum kit, one wanted to take a line from the movie "When Harry Met Sally" and tell the barkeep, "I'll have what she's having.") Naturally, the crowd got stoked, which made the Delphines even more heated and joyful, which led to one of those hours that remind you what rock 'n' roll is supposed to be.
So does this CD. Davalos sings with a satisfying blend of pop breathiness and garage-rock petulance; her vocals on such oughta-be hits as "I Want You the Way I Want You Not How You Are" (a mouthful that'll stick in your mind after just one or two plays) and "Outskirts of Living" capture a potent and volatile mixture of outrage and anguish.
One of the album's small but significant pleasures is listening to Davalos revive the lost vocal art of spurring on the guitarist by screaming and grunting orgiastically as she's about to take a solo.
Valentine, with a huskier, more limited voice, sparks another highlight, the tense, dark "I Am Not Your Loved One." As a guitar player, she has a direct line to garage-rock Valhalla, cranking out a lot of Keith Richards, a few touches of Jimi Hendrix and drawing on vintage Alice Cooper and New York Dolls.
Stylistically, the Delphines tap into a good chunk of the rich garage-band legacy; parallels extend all the way from the Animals, circa 1965, to a more disciplined version of the Muffs, circa right now. A sultry, blues-rock ballad, "Thrill of It," shows that the Blue Bonnets woodshedding phase paid some dividends, after all.
Lyrically, the Delphines can fall into cliche, as on the predictably rendered portrait of too-hip, too-cool, too-dangerous outlaw-rockers in "Down Underground." Even then, the band's hooks and blazing attack render the criticism moot.
More often, the Delphines are apt to reach for the unexpected poetic touch or the memorable, offbeat image. In "I Want You etc.," an angry, anguished, dangerously obsessed Davalos likens her down-bound, drug-infested beau to a stubborn toilet-bowl stain she can't scrub out.
If you're a rock fan who likes it catchy but rough, fierce but fun, "The Delphines" will fix what ails you for 40-odd minutes, guaranteed.
(Available from Fountainbleu Entertainment, 91-38 114th St., Richmond Hill, NY 11418; e-mail: Delphines1@aol.com)
* The Delphines and Supercheez play Friday at the Tiki Bar, 1700 Placentia Ave., Costa Mesa. 10 p.m. $6. (714) 548-3533. The Delphines, Ruby Diver, Laudanum and Lisa Lonzello play Saturday at Que Sera, 1923 E. 7th St., Long Beach. 9 p.m. $6. (310) 599-6170.
Ratings range from * (poor) to **** (excellent), with *** denoting a solid recommendation.