Mainstream rock lost a lot in the late '90s and early 2000s, and amongst the many casualties were the female-fronted rock bands of the mid-'90s. Maybe Alanis Morissette made the Jennifer Trynins, Veruca Salts, and, specifically, that dog.s of the world commercially invalid. But Anna, the debut solo record from former that dog. frontwoman Anna Waronker, is proof that this phenomenon wasn't due to a lack of talent. Fresh off of notable production work on Imperial Teen's On, Waronker has returned with set of three-minute pop songs shrouded in a (tidy) layer of feedback. And like on the three that dog.
records, Waronker's songwriting sticks, whether it's on new wavey power pop like "All for You" and "I Wish You Well" or on any of the album's few more melancholy ballads. That means Anna is nothing revolutionary, of course, and that dog. fans have certainly heard this before. But that same audience will most likely want to hear it again, as will anyone who believes female rockers don't need to choose between being a folky riot grrrl (Ani DiFranco, Dar Williams) or a mainstream maven (Meredith Brooks, Sheryl Crow).
Unexpectedly reforming 20 years after their 1983 breakup, Robin Lane and the Chartbusters pick up, literally, where they left off: most of 2003's Piece of Mind consists of new recordings of songs the Boston folk-rockers had written and demoed for their third Warner Brothers LP in 1982, before the company dropped them.
Not only does it sound like the intervening two decades had never happened, Piece of Mind actually sounds several degrees better than either Robin Lane and the Chartbusters or Imitation Life.
Freed of major label expectations and the suffocating slickness that plagued those earlier records, Piece of Mind sounds like Robin Lane and the Chartbusters were meant to sound; the jangly pop tunes are still there, but there's a rootsier feel on songs, like the country-ish "Little Bird." Lead guitarist Asa Brebner breaks out occasional rockabilly or R&B riffs, and the band's trademark three- and four-part harmonies, as well as Lane's own warm alto, sound as good as ever. Though no one song is as memorable as the group's classic first single, "When Things Go Wrong," this is their most consistently solid effort by far, and, surprisingly enough, the best Robin Lane and the Chartbusters album yet.