by Andrew Miller

Hazard County Girls

Thurs Jan 29

Ash St

In New Orleans, it's nothing new to see girls going wild. But if the Hazard County Girls get a craving for something shiny, they can flash raw power ("Show us your riffs!") rather than anatomical assets.

While there's no decoder ring needed to determine that this band can shred a stage, the Hazard County Girls' identity remains shrouded in contradictions. For starters, there's that name, one that conjures images of short shorts and Southern cousins' hijinx. In interviews, the Girls bemoan the dinky-denim expectations and all-country bills that accompany that moniker, a plight with which it's difficult to empathize. After all, they weren't branded by some malicious rancher. Perhaps they should have christened themselves after singer Christy Kane's remarkable response to a "describe your band in three words" query: Monster-truck loud.

Also, for a group that touts its gender on the marquee, Hazard County Girls doesn't dabble in devil/doll dynamics like, say, Babes in Toyland. Kane never coos cutely or shrieks like a banshee scorned; her tuneful vocals never seem sexually self-aware. As a result, the Girls seldom rate comparisons to other all-female outfits. A quick scan of sound synopses in music magazines uncovers Black Sabbath and Sonic Youth, but no nod to Sleater-Kinney or the Donnas, reliable requisite touchstone in almost all articles about women who rock.

White Zombie's Sean Yseult was an original Hazard County Girl, and though she departed more than a year ago, the group's 2003 debut disc Never No More features her songwriting contributions on more than half of its tracks. Played by current bassist Jennifer Kirtlan, Yseult's burly basslines cut through the dissonant haze like Drano diving into a clogged sink's standing water. Kane's delicately droning delivery fits the vaguely morose midtempo backdrops, and Sharon Heather's cymbal-thrashing adds just the right amount of menace to spook listeners without scaring them away.

After just a few minutes of the trio's bludgeoning bayou blend of gator bite and swamp-thing sludge, awestruck observers just might leave beads and any other gaudy baubles they can find at its altar, eager to worship the group's members like the noise goddesses they are.