Smile Politely

One-minute reviews

Make Me!

House of Brakes

Label: Unsigned (self-released)

You know the cover looks familiar. That’s because it’s the same as Mr. Big’s 1990s cheese-rock tour de force, Lean Into It. (Bet you can sing all the words to “To Be With You.” Don’t deny it.) Make Me!, a girl-boy quartet based in Oakland, Calif., plays lo-fi, not-quite-punk reminiscent of non-cheesy 1990s band Sleater-Kinney. Frontwoman/keyboardist Claire Haynie and bassist Zola Goodrich carry the torch proudly with solid tracks such as “Black Ants” and “RU486.” Reminds me of the good ol’ days, when rockers like Carrie Brownstein and Kathleen Hanna proved that you didn’t have to start out on the Disney Channel or grace the cover of Maxim to succeed as a female in music. — Cristy


Thee Headcoatees


Label: Get Hip

Okay, this isn’t technically new-but it’s new to me. I picked up this out-of-print 1993 gem at Exile on Main Street’s anniversary sale. Thee Headcoatees were a British girl group from the ’90s, featuring garage-rock revival queen Holly Golightly. Turning boy rock on its head, the band covers a girl-centric version of the Beatles’ “Run for Your Life” and demolishes the Shadows of Knight’s “Gloria” with “Melvin” (“M-E-L-V-I-N, Meeeel-vinnn!”). I especially like the preening, snotty rockers “Dirty Old Man” and “Meet Jacqueline.” Imagine that Grease‘s Rizzo were British and fronted a band. That’s Thee Headcoatees. Highly, highly recommended! — Cristy


The Kut

Doesn’t Matter Anyway/Closure (single)

Label: Criminal Records

If Thee Headcoatees are the Pink Ladies, the Kut are Mean Girls. Another all-female British band, the Kut play slick guitar rock. This single, a precursor to their debut album, Lies My Mother Told Me, is an exercise in shiny musical competency. “Doesn’t Matter Anyway” is a driving, catchy, dance-beat anthem, while “Closure” is a thumping, minor-key lament. The single’s cover design is pretty cool, too. — Cristy


Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine

The Audacity of Hype

Label: Alternative Tentacles

Punk icon — and one-time Green Party presidential candidate — Jello Biafra’s serving up a fresh, pipin’-hot loaf of middle-aged angst with his new band, the Guantanamo School of Medicine. Predictably, The Audacity of Hype is loud and fast, and all the songs sound the same. But virtuosity and melodicism aren’t the point. The guy’s pissed, and songs like “New Feudalism,” “Panic Land,” “Strength Thru Shopping,” and the 21-minute epic “I Won’t Give Up” prove that the man isn’t mellowing out anytime soon. — Cristy


Mittens on Strings

Let’s Go to Baba’s

Label: Soungs

Let’s go to Baba’s, the second album by Mittens on Strings, is lush chamber-folk collaboratively written, arranged and produced by friends from Louisville grafted to Chicago. There is a sincere lo-fi warmth and ingenuous interest to the songs. Horns and strings weave earnest tapestries of gutsy gentility. Moody, rich, dark, with occasional points of dissonance that scratch my itch for something new, this strikes me as more low-key stay-at-home music for all weather more than music for driving around with the top down, except maybe slowly at night. All of this has a vein of humor running through. A balm for irritated cochlea, RIYL: You and Yourn. The album is available on vinyl or as an open-donation download ($14 suggested); you can also stream the entire album online ( — William

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