Seeing is believing. You can listen to the fast and fuzzy glam-rock sound of the Sirens on their 2004 self-titled CD, and the musical performance will probably sound more impressive than at a live show. But the key to this female-dominated Detroit sextet is the look.
At a late-night Elbow Room gig last year, I goggled at the Sirens in their gold lamé and black satin costumes. One guitarist was in a short-short bodysuit, another wore a miniskirt and tiara, and the lead singer towered above the stage in bell-bottoms and a cape. Everything was tight, low-cut, and accented by black, knee-high, seriously platform boots.
You have to admire their audacity, especially if you check out photos on their website (thesirensdetroit.com) showing previous costumes inspired by Native Americans, bicyclists, birthday cakes, and mud flaps (think of Yosemite Sam saying "Back off!" on a flap over the crotch).
Singer Muffy Kroha, a fashion retailer by day, is responsible for the Sirens' apparel by night. She's also responsible for strong, angry lead vocals and a stage persona that mixes Morticia Addams and Cher with Alice Cooper. Bugged-out eyes and long, bewitching fingers accent the belting out of Gary Glitter's "I Didn't Know I Loved You (Till I Saw You Rock 'n' Roll)" and Slade's "Gudbuy t'Jane." She even mimics the vocals of obvious influence David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust in "Chez Maximes."
Kroha is flanked by two girl guitarists (unnamed on the website and the CD) who not only rip on their instruments but also sing backing vocals reminiscent of early-1960s girl bands. Both are enthusiastic about the electric potential of the guitar, emphasizing heavy, buzzing lines. The sound is often so muddy it easily covers up deficiencies in skill, but that's just a time-honored rock tradition — as is the head-bopping, hair-in-the-face, manic rhythms that leave you breathless.
Perhaps it was the late hour, thin crowd, or recent lineup change (the formerly all-girl band had replaced its bassist and drummer with two guys in gold lamé), but the Sirens didn't seem entirely comfortable in their wild and sexy getups. Pretty, healthy, and not young, they looked more like your neighbor or somebody's mother under all the theatrics. And they often appeared bored and annoyed. That's okay for a nihilistic metal band. But as glam rockers with plenty of cleavage, they should know the audience expects them to play it up.
Fortunately, they play it up just fine on their CD. Hot and grinding, energetic and studio polished, it's a surprisingly entertaining record. The bass and drums are heavy in the mix, and most of the songs will get your pulse racing. By the time the Sirens get to the final track — Ike Turner's "I'm Blue" — they drag it along, as if they're exhausted from all that came before. I was too.
The Sirens return to the Elbow Room on Saturday, May 6, in a warm-up to a spring tour of Serbia.
[Review published May 2006]