Colleen Green – Sock it to Me

I can’t help but think of Veruca Salt when I listen to Colleen Green. Of course, I’m referring to the band, not the bratty Roald Dahl character they’re named for, and specifically circa American Thighs and Eight Arms to Hold You. The same girly sentiments transposed over gritty guitars on those two albums, which made my prepubescent self feel both less alone and sort of badass, are found on Sock it to Me, Colleen Green’s full-length debut. It gives my closer-to-30-than-not self, despite the hardening years in between, the same impactful surge.

The reality of the situation is that Green and Nina Gordon (of Veruca Salt) sound a lot alike. Almost identical really, save for the differences created by vocal effects. There’s actually multiple factors distinguishing Green from Veruca Salt. The latter’s recordings were decidedly cleaner (and more expensive), and the forcefulness of an alt image somewhat cheapened them. (That video for “Volcano Girls” is absurd. That was clear to me even at 12 years old.) Green’s a lot more organic about everything. She’s self-recorded and self-released the EPs that preceded her Hardly Art LP. With her Milo Goes to Compton tape, she included a silly little comic, and contributes others to zines.

And that segues perfectly into another crucial part of why Green’s sound stirs the nostalgic heart: She’s pulling directly from the pop-punk greats. Obviously, MGTC is a play on The Descendents’ Milo Goes to College, as is the caricature of Green she crafted herself and used for the cover. There’s also a cover of Blink-182’s “M+Ms” on her Bandcamp. Unlike some of her too-cool counterparts (and listeners, even), Green doesn’t deny those bands the credit they’re owed for flinging open the door for her to all sorts of related sounds.

That’s not to say that Green is entirely derivative. She isn’t – at all. There are other powers in play here, like the proto-punk of The Ramones and the fuzz-filled garage scene of now. Additionally, a drum machine is the standard backbone for her tunes. That, along with bouts of synth, set her sound apart. And once sweetened by persuasive pop melodies and Green’s airy, filtered vocals, it’s not hard to forget her self-professed influences.

“When He Tells Me” employs the cutesiest of lyrics (“I really love my boyfriend” sticks out), as does “Time in the World”: “They say our love will never, ever make it through the winter/ But our love’s so warm/ I know we’re livin’ in an endless summer.” The distorted synth, guiding bass and drum machine feel fast, while Green’s often sluggish vocals temper the pace. It’s kind of a mindfreak in terms of tempo. “You’re So Cool” and “Heavy Shit,” are dirtier, less reliant on the manufactured percussion and the former employs some piercing, singular riffs. The sharper, more pervasive synth of “Close to You” gently nods to New Wave. It’s not quite as slow as “Every Boy Was a Normal Girl,” however, the ballad on which Green pleads to be less of a quirk-addled dweeb. It’s saved for third-to-last slot on Sock it to Me, so after hearing the lot before it, you want to shake her shoulders and shout: “You ARE cool, Colleen Green! Really, really cool!”

Thankfully, the LP doesn’t end on too self-deprecating a note. On “Number One,” she begins: “I’ve been told many times before/ To think I’m number one/ And when I do I guess it’s true/ I think I’m having fun.” Then she swaps self-assuredness for dependency, giving her “number one” all the credit for feeling good about herself. That’s an outlook we’re all susceptible to, regardless of age, and it’s present throughout Sock it to Me. Maybe that’s the real reason Green’s music grasps the adolescent heartstrings so firmly.

Colleen Green
Sock it to Me
[Hardly Art]