Melbourne songstress Vannessa Eve has more than a few issues. At only 16 years old, according to her bio, she had been kicked out of home, lived on the streets and had a serious drug habit. In fact, in between busking for change and being arrested for shoplifting (when she happened to meet a producer who gave her her big break), she has written some of Dirty Days in rehab and signed to Instant Karma records. By all accounts, then, she has the credentials to match some of her musical idols; Nirvana, the Pixies and the queen of girl rock; Courtney Love.
Dirty Days resonates with the kind of raw and brutal guitar brat punk that can only come from an artist who has seen enough to make a tried and tested formula still sound interesting. My Way, for example, with its confessional, crude lyrics (“I’ll swallow seconds in a second for your money buddy,”) is far removed from the clean-cut manufactured skater rock of fellow girl-rock wannabes like Avril Lavigne.
This isn’t major label market chasing, it’s far too risqu� for that: single Gutter Girl ebbs with the basic emotions of someone who has lived through things that most people couldn’t possibly empathise with (“I sat in pools of blood all day,”) but bounces along with a carefree pop-punk attitude that is uplifting – despite the intense subject matter.
Opener Catherine is over before it’s begun, 47 seconds of Bikini Kill meets Hole venting, which pretty much sums up what Jaed is about attitude and issues. Confrontational but at the same time deep and inward, it’s music that, while not innovative and perhaps too much indebted to its influences, will resonate with people on a personal level.
While Dirty Days isn’t going to re-map musical history, it just might right some of the wrongs in Eve’s, and, for that purpose, its aggression and in-your-face stance is entirely justified.
That’s not to say that Jaed can’t produce a more placid form of catharsis: there are touches of tranquilly in most of the tracks here, the essentials of the quiet/loud formula which combines extreme emotion with inner reflection. Closing track Sleeping Beauty almost sounds like something which could pop up on The OC (something which would no doubt make Eve and the rest of Jaed cringe beyond belief).
“Don’t you worry / cos everything’s gonna be alright / if we just stay together.” It’s as close to a soppy ballad that Eve can produce, but makes a suitable contrast to the aggression that comes before it. Likewise, while Dream Hair might kick off like a Soundgarden-type rock monster, it soon takes a more reflective, witty lyrical twist: “Get your head out of your ass / cos you’re fucking up my last chance.” Crude, perhaps, but real nonetheless.
Dirty Days is not a record that will speak volumes to everyone, but to a chosen few it could reflect the angst and strife that served Jaed’s influences so well. The Nirvanas of this world were never designed for mass success; they did their thing and tried to keep it as close to what it really felt like as possible. And with a track record like Eve’s, there is plenty more emotion left to give.