Suicide Squeeze Records · Death Valley Girls – Breakthrough
Throughout the bulk of this site’s ten year history, I’ve spilled copious amounts of virtual ink writing about the Los Angeles-based garage rock/psych rock act Death Valley Girls — founding duo Larry Schemel (guitar) and Bonnie Bloomgarden (vocals, guitar) and a rotating cast of collaborators that includes Alana Amram (bass), Laura Harris (drums), Shannon Lay, members of The Make Up, The Shivas and Moaning, as well as The Flytraps‘ Laura Kelsey — can trace their origins back well over a decade ago, when they were formed by Schemel, Bloomgarden, Rachel Orosco (bass) and Hole‘s Patty Schemel (drums). Although they’ve gone through a series of lineup changes throughout their history, the JOVM’s sound and aesthetic for much of their history was influenced by The Manson Family and B movie theatrics while thematically focusing on the occult.
Slated for a June 12, 2020 release through their longtime home, Suicide Squeeze Records, the band’s two-song seven-inch EP Breakthrough finds the JOVM mainstays covering two songs that have a deep and profound connection to the band — both in their spirit and aural alignment: The EP’s first single is a cover of Atomic Rooster‘s “Breakthrough,” a song discovered through an even more obscure cover by Nigerian act The Funkees. Centered around grimy power chords, fire-and-brimstone organ chords and an in-your-face, combative chorus, the Death Valley Girls cover, leans more towards The Funkees’ cover and although all three versions manage to hew closely to their long-held aesthetic, the song also manages to be remarkably contemporary, as it evokes an age-old desire to be free from all kinds of prisons, both real and mental.
The band was drawn to something far deeper than its melody and sound. “It spoke to me because of the lyrics about breaking free from an invisible prison… we all have invisible or visible prisons we are trapped in,” the band’s Bonnie Bloomgarden explains in press notes. Interestingly, the song’s discovery coincided with the band’s interest in The West Memphis Three’s Damien Echols and his ability to endure his lengthy imprisonment by learning to astral project through meditation.