The search for meaning in rock music can be a real drag--and when a band like the Donnas comes along it all seems hopelessly pompous. These four teenage girls from Palo Alto borrow the look and feel of the Runaways--maybe cynically, maybe not--but as puerile and rudimentary as the music on their recent American Teenage Rock 'n' Roll Machine (Lookout) may be, its most basic thrills have nothing to do with irony. With no help from any Kim Fowley-like Svengali, the Donnas--who distinguish themselves by their last initials, F., R., A., and C.--mix the sound of Joan Jett's old band with that of the Ramones and even some 70s glam (Elton John's "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" is recalled by "Checkin' It Out"). Lyrically they plow through time-tested antiauthority and party-hearty tropes. Still--and maybe it's because they're actual kids instead of adults acting like kids--they make it all sound fresh again. The Donnas do occasionally get edgier than their 70s counterparts, particularly when the underdeveloped voice of Donna A. violates the veneer of cuteness in an unwitting homage to Erica Jong called "Leather on Leather" and on "Outta My Mind," where she commands, "Come on, stick it in!" But ten songs and 25 mintues later it's all over, no regrets, no worries--'cept maybe that the Rolling Stones, who make millions doing the same thing with less verve, could be the Donnas' daddies. Friday, 7 PM, Fireside Bowl, 2646 W. Fullerton; 773-486-2700. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Julie Pavlowski.