There is something alluring about the history of Ancient Rome. It is easy to distance ourselves from a civilization that hadn’t quite grasped the concept of haute couture, where people wiped their pugae with a communal sponge on a stick, and where he who owned the most had the most and was entitled to do whatever he wanted [before retiring to the vomitorium]. The draw is toward accounts of the extremes to which societal norms can swing (not to mention the sterility of a communication system that uses the ablative case without mucking things up with unnecessary pronouns, prepositions, and articles). Maude Gun launched their debut record last month, in which they relate the remarkable tale of one badass matronae Romanae, named Claudia Quinta. The album is called Claudia, The Word, and it incites, excites, and incises the patriarchal tropes we recognize time and time again in our modern lives.
“(the call)” invokes something primal, with the heavy hitting tonal thump of something that didn’t come from a factory, and one, two, more voices joined in a harmony of open vowels. The melody is catchy, both familiar and mystical at once. Fast with a resolution every two measures, an inviting guitar gets “ON HIGH” started, invading my mind with thoughts of denim jackets and penny candy. Then come the vocals, beautifully articulated lyrics posturing Woman before the expanse of the unknown in a melody congruent with the album’s introduction. (I wonder if the ladies of Maude Gun have ever taken one a ghost tour.) The song builds up to an explosion of angelic, repeated “white light” into the self-described hip hip happening, a gathering, a brouhaha. In this track, Jenni Messner (a.k.a. Angelface) and Molly Murphy (alias Diesel) set themselves up as harbingers of Her. There are elements of the phonetic flexibility of Mala Rodriguez, the emotional integrity of Lisa Loeb, the storytelling of Liz Phair, and the vocal pliability of Ke$ha. All in all, Maude Gun is something unique from Brooklyn.
In “(kind of a religion),” Maude Gun sets the listener up for the band’s “origin story” with vocals spoken over with a guitar that offers shelter to the listener exposed. “CLAUDIA, THE WORD” continues with the tale over guitar strummed out like a subaquatic shag carpet. The drums pound with enough weight to go toe-to-toe with the guitar. The lyrics detail the epic existence of Claudia Quinta. Jenni and Molly narrate the tale with rational sardonicism, pointing out the similarity between a sandbar and the patriarchy (amiriiiite?). Those lucky enough to witness Claudia performing an incredible feat dismissed it as but a side effect of those honorable feminine qualities they presumed to judge her by. The song is a blast of punk from a paintball gun, but instead of being played with aggression and anger, the colorful game is fueled by excitement and fun.
Notes long like a maxi dress extend toward the listener in “(daughter of Maude).” With the lines, Claudia, daughter of mine / What you have is a gift / All you have to do is ask / We got you, girl / We’re all here / Waiting, it is a gentle reprieve from the harshness of reality. Morose and spangly guitar begins “LILITH I,” with spoken lyrics about Lilith and her garden: a garden of shadows, where we hide everything we don’t want anyone to see. The song carries the angst of reconciling who you are with the person the world perceives you to be. (Do you pose on Instagram?)
“WOMAN’S TOUCH” is a celebration of femininity and a warm, strong embrace of all the aspects of being a woman that are met by the most repugnance from disenlightened souls. The lyrics lift Claudia up to the position of savior in the first half; then, the listener hears the tale of Claudia bringing breath to the breathless with just her hands. In “BETHANY’S LAMENT,” the vocals are delivered fervently like a bubbling pot of beans. The lyrics take on the point of view of the aforementioned breathless Bethany, to seize control and be the captain of her fate. It is an angry punk-pumped plea for freedom from the wants of others that smooths out to a lounge singer’s croon to purr It’s my body and I’ll die if I want to with increasing excitement. The song takes a turn toward soul town with a shout-out to the great ladies of what some refer to as herstory.
“LILITH II” holds the heartbeat of humanity within its one minute and twenty-eight seconds, with a guitar-drum pairing that conveys a sense of swinging forward, or perhaps of hurtling through space. Like communal barefoot dancing in the grass. “(so they descended)” chronicles the return of Bethany to The Garden in words and guitar that could make you bow your head.
“THE GARDEN” could unite warring peoples with its earthy sound. The song moves forward with the uncontrollable inevitability of public transportation, but the smell is better. “(and you get a car! and you! and you!)” is a guided visualization exercise. A perfect existence is described as follows: Maybe she never makes a mistake / Maybe she’s never jealous / Maybe she’s f[a]lawless. The insertion of a vowel between the first two letters of flawless hints at a stylistic linguistic animalistic pattern that serves to puff up our beautiful plumage but stop there because we don’t even have to strut, the façade is all that’s necessary. The vocals are delivered on a continuum from spoken word to fast spoken word to backup singing so to bring the album around and back to the mystical melody with which it began.
History teaches us of the good and evil that is hidden within all of us. While chronological distance encourages us to forget the sundry details, time also gives us the opportunity to reflect on what it was that got mankind into that position in the first place. With Claudia, The Word, Maude Gun takes a careful look at what it means to be a human woman on Earth, reassuring listeners that the reason behind the age-old struggle is big and sticky: it’s the thing that makes a proper-fitting bustier look amazing, the ability to withstand extreme discomfort (whether inflicted by a human skull in a tight place or by fashionable footwear), and it is the thing that makes a blowout worth it. Maude Gun has created the perfect album for those weeks when you’ve been assaulted three times and it’s only Tuesday. It can stir the burbling and innate knowledge within us all, and it reminds you of that dormant power that, when harnessed, prevails over all the uncontrollable things that happen to us. I swear to Maude, this album is a must in a society where the collective consciousness has been contaminated by the loathing of the inadequate. For the sake of humanity and those members of humanity who appreciate good music, for Maude’s sake, listen to Claudia, The Word and show Maude Gun some love.