Le Butcherettes’ Teri Gender Bender comes off as unpredictable, perhaps even a little possessed, during the band’s now-infamous live performances. But on Cry is for the Flies, her band’s second full-length, the Mexican-born singer-songwriter also displays some subtlety alongside her off-kilter edginess.
Gender Bender and drummer Lia Braswell, as well as collaborator and producer Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (of Mars Volta), have concocted an album that’s playfully weird and oftentimes frightening. Whether it’s the organ-grinding churn of “Boulders Love Over Layers of Rock,” the all-out garage-rock stomp of “Demon Stuck in Your Eye” or the playful yet demented nursery rhyming “Poet from Nowhere,” Flies is a multifaceted album that covers Gender Bender’s various musical moods.
On “My Child,” Gender Bender channels one of her obvious influences, PJ Harvey, and creates a twisted circus version of Harvey’s classic tragedy tale “Down by the Water.” Henry Rollins contributes the spoken-word piece “Moment of Guilt,” detailing a man conversing with his own guilt, which leads into the noise-ridden “The Gold Chair Ate the Fireman.” Garbage’s Shirley Manson, another of Gender Bender’s early inspirations, pops her smooth vocals into “Shame, You’re All I’ve Got,” a more delicate, lounge-friendly track. While the 10 songs jump between styles and tones, the central lyrical theme of guilt ties the album together: Gender Bender’s guilt about having to leave Mexico (she now lives in El Paso, Texas), for example, is a recurring reference.
“Normal, You Were” could be the quintessential weirdo Le Butcherettes song: It begins with Gender Bender’s eerie singing, then changes into a banshee-like chant before the duo crashes into distorted guitar chords and cymbal-smashing, anxiety-ridden panic with the disturbing shout-out to the “people of the glory hole.” Gender Bender has found the perfect home on Mike Patton’s Ipecac imprint; a label that celebrates eclectic, daring, musically challenging artists that aren’t afraid to sporadically withdraw and show their soft side. Then, right when you most expect it, things get very uncomfortable again.