I Sold My Soul To The Devil When I Was 12, on SonaBlast records, is the latest offering of pop/punk mayhem from the Kentucky duo GRLwood. While the band’s power is undeniable, even more amazing is the diversity of sound Rej Forester, guitar and vocals, and Karen Leford, drums, mange to create with only two instruments.
Their songs are unapologetically queer and feminist. In fact it’s safe to say GRLwood’s lyrical content drops them right in the Queercore genre. Not only are they refusing to be polite gays, grateful for the scraps they’ve been given, they don’t care what you think of them: they are who they are and any problem you have with that is your’s not their’s.
GRLwood’s lyrics and song titles reflect this attitude. The disc’s opening track “Get Shot”, the first single off the album,”I Hate My Mom”, and the 11th track, “No Tongue” are, each in their own way, examples of this. “Get Shot” lists instructions on how to avoid getting shot in today’s America, including stuff like “Mama said, Be nice to sad boys or else get shot/Say yes sir to a cop or you might get shot/Stay inside at night or you might get shot”.
The sad boys are an obvious reference to incells (meaning involuntary celibates) who blame women because they aren’t getting sex. Of course the say yes sir to a cop is pretty obvious. With the increased militarization of police in the US (and Canada) the chances of being shot by a cop, especially if you’re a visible minority, have increased exponentially in recent years. We’re constantly told to be polite and respectful so they don’t have an excuse to kill us – which implies they are trigger happy and quite willing to shoot first and ask questions later.
Instead of trying to make the streets safer for women, they’ve been told not to go out at night to ensure they don’t get attacked for decades now. There has not only been no improvement in this area, the situation has just become worse and worse.
Being queer has always made for some strange family dynamics. “I Hate My Mom” is GRLwood’s take on that fun topic. Here the mom of the title is telling her ‘girl’ what to do in order to get a ‘man’. “Wear more this, but don’t wear that, that’s too much black/Eating makes you fat/I fucking hate my mom, I hate my mom, I hate my mom.”
“No Tongue” is quite self-explanatory as Forester sings, “We can hold hands/But not in public/ I don’t want them thinking/ I am/ A faggot like YOU/ A FAGGOT LIKE YOU”. While she initially uses a fake sweet voice Forester literally screams the word you and then repeatedly screams a faggot like you in a voice that would make a death metal singer envious.
With GRLwood being a duo, and only playing drums and guitar, you can be excused for worrying their sound might get monotonous. However, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the variety of sound and texture they are able to produce. It also helps that Forester is an exceptional vocalist.
She not only has a good range, able to sing comfortably at both the top and bottom of the scale, she can change from her normal voice to primal scream mode from one note to the next. Not only is it a powerful tool for emphasizing lyrics, it also adds another layer to the a tracks texture. Forester is one part pop singer, one part cabaret vocalist and occasional death metal singer – and it works.
I Sold My Soul To The Devil When I Was 12 from GRLwood is a brilliant example of the intrinsic power of punk. Queercore at its finest, this is not a band to be messed with or an album to be missed.