You can read nary a review of Potty Mouth that doesn’t eat invoke the riot grrl label. While it’s true that the group consists of all women, there some other all-girl groups that are better comparisons than Kathleen Hanna and company. While riot grrl was all about the message, the ladies of Potty Mouth rage against the label because they believe we as a culture should be beyond needing the “We are women, hear us roar,” sentiment. It is not to say that Potty Mouth doesn’t have a message, but making catchy punk songs seems to be their goal.
Upon first listening to Potty Mouth’s debut LP, Hell Bent, I was immediately reminded of four females from Palo Alto, California in the late 1990s called the Donnas. The Donnas’ self-titled debut album was filled with lo-fi pop punk similar to Hell Bent. Where the two albums differ is with the message. While the Donnas derived power from sexuality, Potty Mouth never flaunts their gender. Instead they derive power from the time honored punk tradition of snottiness.
Opening track “The Gap” features noisy pop punk instrumentals and lead singer Abby Weems’ monotone vocals, which are reminiscent of Dookie-era Green Day. The track itself shows Weems talking about wanting more out of life and what she can reasonably achieve. With the chorus of “I heard a million times what’s going to get you there / and I said a million times I don’t know who cares,” the track feels like a perfect high school punk anthem, although its message is multigenerational.
The messages become a little more specific with “The Spins.” The track seems to be Potty Mouth’s very own “Johnny Hit and Run Paulene,” with Weens singing, “Because it’s hard to say no, yeah it’s hard to say no / think you’ll be okay, but you really should have known / and it’s hard to say no! It’s hard to say no! / because you think you’ll be okay, until you’re laying to the floor.” The song’s anti-“get so fucked up you black out” message seems counter to a lot of youth culture’s current message.
However, a typical message does exist in the Potty Mouth world. “Bullseye” might be the most typical pop punk love song of the bunch with lyrics like, “When we’re apart I know time moves so slow slow.” Similarly, “Shithead” is your typical, “You were my friend but now I know you’re a shithead.” But even though both of these songs seem trite, the energy and execution of each track makes the lyrics easy to overlook.
Every year I look for an album to prove to me that punk is not dead. For 2013, Potty Mouth’s Hell Bent is up for the challenge. The album’s throwback 90s pop punk sound makes for an enjoyable listen for anyone who cruised basement shows in their teenage years.