The Cherry Valence

In The Outsiders, a 1967 novel published when its author, S.E. Hinton, was just sixteen, Cherry Valance is a "soc" -- a teen who hangs out with sweater-wearing, affluent peers from the right side of the tracks. But whereas most of the soc guys and dolls are snooty, arrogant and openly derisive of the town's juvenile delinquents, referred to as "greasers," Cherry is more difficult to peg. She's sympathetic to the plight of Ponyboy, the book's greaser protagonist, and is smitten by bad-boy Dally, a ruffian from New York City who perishes in a hail of bullets long before he can help Cherry lose her...well, you get the idea.

In a sense, The Cherry Valence imagines a different future (and spelling) for Hinton's character. The North Carolina band of the same name is thrillingly loud, nasty and unrepentant, as Cherry might have been had she obeyed her first instincts and become Dally's partner in crime. The CD opens with "Lose That Smile," a track literally kicked off by the slamming sounds of not one but two drum kits (one handled by Nick Whitley, the other manned by Brian Quast) being pounded like a gang member who's ventured into forbidden territory. Shortly thereafter, the rhythm is joined by Paul Siler's brawny bass and the thoroughly dirty guitars of Jamie Williams and Cheetie Kumar, the living embodiment of a good girl gone wrong. As for lyrics like "She got a brand-new bag/It fits on top of her head," it's hard to tell if they're sexist or anti-sexist -- the sort of ambiguity on which rock and roll once thrived.

No, the Cherry Valence aren't doing anything new, but on a cut like "Bootyshakin'," introduced by the sort of chaotic guitar squall most acts choose not to unleash until the end of a song, that hardly matters. Even when these guys offer up a generic garage progression, as they do on "Take It Easy," a song that blessedly has precisely zero to do with the Eagles hit of the same name, they rip through it with more than enough energy to give the usual cliches a jolt. On top of that, they're utterly lacking in self-consciousness: "The Clap," for instance, isn't a paean to venereal disease, but an old-fashioned slab of glam metal concerned mainly with slapping hands, stamping feet, dancing like Frankenstein in a lightning storm and acting like the reincarnation of Marc Bolan.

Hinton's Cherry Valance would pretend to be shocked by this display. Deep down, though, she'd love every minute of it.


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