The Donnas

Gold Medal (Atlantic)

In the wake of 2002's Spend the Night, the biggest-selling platter of their career, the Donnas have discovered maturity the way some seekers find religion. The ladies from Palo Alto recently ditched their Ramones-like pseudonyms in favor of their given names and transitioned musically from semi-novelty punkettes to sturdy pros with an occasionally glammy edge. Thanks to these changes, they sound more proficient than ever on Gold Medal -- but that proves to be a mixed blessing.

Produced by Butch Walker, the album leans heavily on Allison Robertson's increasingly slick guitar; the solo in "Don't Break Me Down" may mark the first time the word "tasty" can be applied to her playing. Meanwhile, lead vocalist Brett Anderson is crooning more and growling less -- a decision that subtly undermines the sass in the lyrics to "Is That All You've Got for Me."

Not that the disc as a whole is a wipeout. "It's So Hard" proves the quartet can still engage in flirty double entendres when the mood strikes, and tunes such as "It Takes One to Know One" are hook-filled and infectious. Unfortunately, they're also a bit more subdued than the Donnas' previous efforts, and that raises questions for the future. Be careful, ladies: A little maturity goes a long way.

 
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