The Linda Lindas are a punk quartet with a median age of 14, who rose to prominence when the Los Angeles Public Library uploaded a video of them performing their song “Racist, Sexist Boy” in their library. The song infused riot grrrl with quirky twee pop, kind of like if Kill Rock Stars produced a split record with K Records, and the video went viral, endearing the band to both young and ageing punkers the world over.
Shortly after, the band signed with Epitaph Records, the label run by producer and Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz. An interesting choice, as the label’s signature and iconic melodic hardcore from their salad days is probably one of the few sounds that The Linda Lindas’ debut album, Growing Up, doesn’t ape.
“Racist, Sexist Boy,” while a great song, wasn’t a great primer for the album, as it is really the only song on the album to have that riot grrrl crunch. If Growing Up could be compared to any Kathleen Hanna project, it’s more Le Tigre than Bikini Kill.
The two opening tracks – “Oh!” and “Growing Up” – are very reminiscent of mid-2000s pop-punk, the type of music that would play over the opening titles of a Lindsay Lohan movie from that era. Suddenly, it made sense that The Linda Lindas were one of the few bands to be scheduled on the When We Were Young festival (a celebration of the pop-punk and emo bands of that era) that weren’t around back then because these songs are very reminiscent of bands like blink-182 and The All-American Rejects.
From there, the album spreads out to add a variation on top of their sound, from punk (“Fine,” “Remember”), indie pop (“Talking to Myself,” “Magic”), grunge (“Why”) and power-pop (“Remember”). One of the most interesting tracks is “Cuántas Veces,” which sounds like a lounge track with Spanish lyrics on top which deal with personal uncertainty.
Lyrically, none of the other songs on the album attempt the pointed commentary of “Racist, Sexist Boy,” instead focusing on topics common to the pop-punk genre: uncertainty in life, coming-of-age, self-doubt, love, and…eh…their cat Nino. But you know what lends these songs a little more credibility compared to other artists in the genre? The fact that they’re being sung by actual teenagers, as opposed to 20 and 30-somethings trying to artificially recapture high school to sell to teens! Despite the variation in instrumentation throughout the album, there is not a lot of variety presented on the songs lyrically.
The major complaint that could be had of Growing Up is that it is not exactly the most unique-sounding album that you will ever hear in your life. It does, however, present a musical scholarship that’s very impressive for the ages of the members, at times reminiscent of acts as various as The Dickies, Ramones, L7, Beat Happening, Shonen Knife, Beach House, Red Aunts, Paramore, The 126.96.36.199’s, Dum Dum Girls, Sleater-Kinney, and so on. The act that the album most reminded me of was the band Bleached. Looking it up, two of the band’s members are the daughters of producer Carlos de la Garza, the producer of this album and, among many other acts, Bleached.
Growing Up is a great record that blends an organic teenage start-up band who are trying to emulate their influences with the production skills of a Grammy-winning producer working on a release for one of the biggest indie labels in the world. The resulting effect is an album that has a great sense of consistently addictive and well-crafted melody and harmony for songs that feel lyrically significant for its target audience.