This Is Not A Test

Gangsta Bitch Barbie

Choosy Mom Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/21/1999

What hath Rage Against The Machine wrought?

Thanks to their success, we're now seeing a lot of bands who put a tough-sounding rap (not necessarily as political as Rage's lyrics, though) to a solid metal beat. The market isn't oversaturated... yet.

With a name that's sure to get Mattel's undies in a bunch, Gangsta Bitch Barbie follows in this vein. Their debut disc This Is Not A Test is a decent enough effort, though it really takes some time before you can get into the groove. Problem is, clocking in at a half hour, it really shouldn't take that long to land the first uppercut.

The group - vocalist Ken Smith, guitarists Chris Fitzgerald and Jim Foster, bassist Jim Shippey and drummer Danny Marques - know how to lay down a groove and follow it up with a solid vocal performance. (One issue of contention: the liner notes list "Todd" as a guitarist, and not Jim Foster as written in the bio and on their Web site. Explanation, guys?)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The disc starts off a little slow with "Suplex Ninja" - not a bad track at all, just not the ideal first choice to kick things off. The follow-up track, "Six.5," also fails to really light a fire under the listener. This isn't saying that these tracks are bad - indeed, they're both listenable and entertaining. It's just that if Gangsta Bitch Barbie wanted to blow me off my chair from the start, it didn't happen.

Fortunately, things get thrown into hyperdrive with "Godzilla" and "KingPin". The latter of these two remains my favorite, with a definite vocal hook that is going to bore itself into your brain. (Days after listening to this, I found myself saying for no apparent reason, "Swing, swing, batter batter, swing!") (The disc closes with an unlisted remix of "KingPin" - I'll say this much, at least they chose an excellent track as the hidden track, and I didn't have to wait long at all for it to kick off.)

Tracks like "Fluff O Nutta" and "Downsize" all do impress, but This Is Not A Test ends just as things start to warm up for the band. This is where I think that EPs do more harm than good. Sure, eight songs (nine, counting the bonus track) might not really count as an EP, but when this disc clocks in at just over a half-hour, I almost feel that I haven't had enough time to really get used to the style that Gangsta Bitch Barbie is laying down.

And there's no doubt that the band has talent, though I would really like to see them move away from a pure RATM sound and try to come up with a groove all their own. But it somehow doesn't feel right pronouncing judgment on them after a mere half-hour, no matter how many times I listen to the disc.

This Is Not A Test is a good starting point for the band, but it commits the venial sins of underexposing the band and getting off to a slow start. With a little more development of their style (which is three-quarters of the way there already) and a followup disc packed with tracks of the same quality caliber as "KingPin", then Gangsta Bitch Barbie could well be unstoppable. If that's the case, then Zach De La Rocha had better keep an eye in his band's rear view mirror.

Rating: B-

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© 1999 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 Choosy Mom Records, and is used for informational purposes only.