American Teenage Rock 'n' Roll Machine

The Donnas

Lookout! Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


And now, from Oakland... the anti-Hanson!

Picking up the three-chord rhythm where the Ramones left off, The Donnas, a four-piece female punk group, bang through their ten-song debut American Teenage Rock 'N' Roll Machine in just over 25 minutes, well too short to make a serious impression on the listener. But those 25 minutes are not bad, though some rough edges remain.

Led by vocalist Donna A., The Donnas lift some lines from the Ramones bible (like the importance of the radio on "Gimmie My Radio"), but there's a major difference between the godfathers of American punk and their daughters - The Donnas are an admittedly horny bunch, and have no problem singing about it. (The Ramones were more interested in sniffing glue than... oh, never mind. Things like this will keep us from getting a family rating from RSAC.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Donna R.'s guitar work isn't bad, though I would have liked to have heard a little more in the lead department; she shows that she knows her chops rather well. Bassist Donna F. is pretty hidden in the mix, while drummer Donna C. occasionally shows some weakness in her fills on the skins - though this could also be the fault of a rather poor production job.

But it's in the songs on American Teenage Rock 'N' Roll Machine where The Donnas can be heard to be serious about what they're doing - unlike The Ramones, The Donnas are willing to let a song stretch for a while to get their point across. And while I can appreciate the teenage hormones - they don't get any easier at 27 than they were at 17, let me tell you - there are times I wish they'd get off the subject of teen sex ("Wanna Get Some Stuff," ("You Make Me Hot," "Leather On Leather").

So how is the music? Well... better than one would have expected. Let's face it, music from teenagers has been poo-poohed throughout rock's history (remember The Runaways? Bad 4 Good?), and often it hasn't been that good. The Donnas do show some musical immaturity, but not so much that it cripples the album; indeed, there are times where their skills on their instruments surprised me. But this maturity only comes with time and practice - and, hopefully, better producers.

But the biggest problem with the album is its brevity - it's real hard to base a judgment on less than a half-hour worth of stuff. C'mon, ladies, couldn't you have thrown one or two more tracks on this one to pad it out just a tad?


American Teenage Rock 'N' Roll Machine isn't a punk masterpiece, nor is it the disappointment some would want to make it out to be. For a debut album, not bad - but there should have been more material to judge it on.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Lookout! Records, and is used for informational purposes only.