(Copyright © 2021 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )
My Pal Berta (2013), 6/10
Shitheads In The Ditch (2014), 5/10
Bye Bye Berta (2017), 6/10
Roach Goin' Down (2018), 6/10
Palberta5000 (2021), 5.5/10

New York's female trio Palberta (Lily Konigsberg, Anina Ivry-Block, Nina Ryser) played garage-rock with an intentionally un-musical attitude. Their first cassette, My Pal Berta (2013), contains only 11 brief sloppily-played and erratically sung songs: demented singalongs like When I Come and She Don't Got It, witchy dances like Pop Song (the standout) and Anyway, and childish rants like Hair's Gonna Grow. Emblematic of their musical skills are the goofy jazzy ballad Ode to Gabe and the lopsided Captain Beefheart-ian blues instrumental Smile Song. The singers alternate and so the vocals range from beastly squealing to punk-ish outbursts.

The ten-song cassette Shitheads In The Ditch (2014) reached new heights of calculated dementia with Beach and She don't Got it, of anti-pop childishness with All the Way, and of Beefheart-ian anarchy with Butt Thrust.

After the more energetic EP Hot on the Beach (2015), with the demonic rave-up The Weekend (and the silly, pointless 13-minute loop of Prolly for the Best), the wildly eclectic 20-song 27-minute Bye Bye Berta (2017) marked a major shift in tone. Compared with the early recordings, the simple choral refrains of She Feels That Way, Honey Baby and Why Didn't I are almost church music. There is certainly a lot more variety. Jaws is the best of their childish Melt-Banana-esque fits and Nose an excellent and repellent example of their barbaric garage-rock. Ode to Honey merges Beefheart and the Roches. Sick is a blues-jazz jam. The sleepy and hypnotic doo-wop of Get Around is coupled with the musique concrete of Bells Pt A.

The 22-song Roach Goin' Down (2018) was their most varied album yet, while losing the youthful exuberance of the early recordings. It contains the most regular songs of their career: Ink of Truth, Big Time, Fake-Out, Gimme Everything You Got Girl and even an anthemic Sound of the Beat (which could be a cover of the Fleshtones with no organ and no sax). But it also contains a broad spectrum of song formats, from Sleater-Kinney-esque garage-rock of Roach Goin' Down and Heaven to Rock n' Roll to the zombie gospel of Momentous Space-Up, from lopsided blues (Jumping From Lamp to Lamp) to lopsided jazz (Come Again, possibly the standout here). In My Fame - Jug is an attempt to sound like a noise-rock band of the 1990s. Cherry Baby is Captain Beefheart deconstructing doo-wop. Big Box Inn mixes nursery rhyme and punk-rock.

They attempted to clean up their sound a bit on the 16-song Palberta5000 (2021) with the vibrant and driving Before I Got Here, the catchy bedroom-pop of No Way, the dreamy Corner Store, the garage-pop of Big Bad Want, the twee-pop of Summer Sun (with the best vocal harmonies), and the breezy In Again (with the best guitar counterpoint). These melodies quickly become monotonous and tedious. Particularly disappointing are the longer songs, like the four-minute Fragile Place and the five-minute All Over My Face where it becomes evident that the girls have little imagination/inspiration when they stretch beyond the one-minute novelty. The deranged square-dance of Hey and the racing robotic Eggs n' Bac' are the last remnants of their exuberant eccentricity. The intriguing aspect of their music remains the contrast between the vocal harmonies (that recall Renaissance music as well as church music) and the instrumental parts (that are sloppy imitations of country, blues and rock music). Two of the best demonstrations come towards the end: Something in the Way and The Way That You Do.

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