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Girls' choir : The ladies of Mika Miko

Punk, Undead

L.A.'s Mika Miko heads to Santa Cruz with a satchel of restless punk for now people.

By Paul Davis

Ask just about anyone other than the relics at Maximum Rocknroll magazine, and they'll tell you the same: punk is not only dead, it's been disinterred so many times that there's nothing on the corpse left but decrepit bones.And this may be the case, but no one bothered to tell Los Angeles punk brats Mika Miko. A throwback to a time when punk rock could conceivably change the world--or at least provide the soundtrack to a grimy, bacchanalian all-night party--the all-woman five-piece is unapologetically punk rock. Sloppy guitars, ram shod delivery and the danger that comes from a band that seems that it could go over the cliff at any given moment? All are in heavy supply here.

This isn't to say that Mika Miko is a band out of time--the members, all between the ages of 21 and 24, share a postmodern jitteriness that brings to mind contemporaries such as No Age and Le Shok. Still, the points of inspiration in Mika Miko's sound emerge from a very specific moment of punk rock history. Reminiscent of the accidental virtuosity of the Germs and the brazen antagonism of the Slits, the dual-attack vocals of singers Jennifer Clavin and Jenna Thornhill (strained through a telephone repurposed into a mic) nimbly weave in and out of deceptively idiot-savant guitar playing by Michelle Suarez.

Mika Miko's insolent assault could come off as a gimmick. It's difficult, this late in the game, not to eye any entry into the punk rock stakes as a calculated move, a self-aware pastiche of so many sounds of the past. And indeed, on the band's two releases, C.Y.S.L.A.B.F and 666, its true appeal can be hard to tease out of the authentically scratchy, boombox-fidelity recordings. In a live setting, the band proves to be a far more formidable beast, and its true charms become apparent.

Mika Miko doesn't carry the political or social heft of recent punk revivalists, or attempt to be anything more than what it is: a hairpin, swerving assault on propriety and stasis. It's dumb, fun punk meant for basements and all-night parties. But it doesn't need to be anything more. The women of the band don't claim to represent a new movement, instead preferring to refer to their sound as "pony thrash." And while the band could have conceivably come from any period over the past two decades, there's no denying that its needling, insistent assault is rooted firmly in the now. They may be a throwback, but Mika Miko is undoubtedly a product of these restless times.

MIKA MIKO With El Sonido on Monday (July 21) at 9pm at the Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $6. For more information, call 831.429.6994.

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