What Makes Laura Scream?

Pinch their cheeks and they'll yell bloody murder: Baby Guts

Pinch their cheeks and they'll yell bloody murder: Baby Guts

Baby Guts
Guilt Ridden Pop

The Pocketknife Demo
Tardigrade Records

It's near witching hour on a Friday night, and I'm sittin' on the porch of the Pocketknife passing 'round a bottle of rum with Baby Guts. The trio is led by the angst-ridden voice of guitarist and principle songwriter Laura Larson. Her high school chum and current housemate Taylor Matori plays bass and vocals, and formally trained, self-proclaimed 'un-punk' Zam-Zam Goswitz (formerly of the Men Who Control The Weather) mans the drums. Although the band's behavior this evening is entirely polite, the same cannot be said of their live performances, or of the 20-minute blast of woozy alternative-rock-meets-thrashy-girl-punk captured on their debut album Gasoline, soon to be re-released on local label Guilt Ridden Pop.

Baby Guts' roots go back to Larson and Motari's days at Burnsville High School. As Larson explains, "I saw Taylor one day after school, and we were both wearing shirts for this insane gothic comic called Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. Taylor was like, 'Hey, I like your shirt. You should come to my show tonight at the Garage.'"

"The reason I'm playing music is because of the Garage in Burnsville," Matori proclaims with fondness for the teen-oriented community center. "I got a job there so I could perform at shows when I was 16. Anyone could play there, you just had to go to a meeting. You didn't have to be a good band."

Larson describes her introduction to the Garage in much more reactionary and confrontational terms. "When I was in junior high, the cool kids were all the stoners who played 'Basket Case' by Green Day and 'Damn It' by Blink 182. I always hated those kids. They gave off this aura, like, 'All these girls love us.' I thought, I don't want to be like, 'Oh, I want to fuck him'—I want to be the person playing guitar. That's kind of how I picked it up, out of spite."

As a vocalist, Larson frequently offsets slower melodic warbling with rhythmic shouts and torturous, angry shrieks. "I remember being in my bedroom as a teen listening to Jessica from Jack Off Jill screaming, and thinking Man, I wish I could scream like that. A few times I tested to see if I could scream like that, in my basement bedroom, into my pillow, while my parents were upstairs." The first time I heard Larson's prolonged slit-throat scream on "Cringe," one of the album's most memorable moments, I thought I heard a vomiting, followed by a death. I think of it as a peak adrift in the endless murk of some post-Nirvana punk bubble chart.

Since the initial, limited self-release of Gasoline, the band has recorded and released a cassette on house label Tardigrade Records. The Pocketknife Demo features virtually all new material, as well as cut-and-paste copy-machine artwork that makes interesting use of pubic hair. The cassette, fittingly, explores a more primal and blown-out sound than the surprisingly well-produced Gasoline. On songs like "Firetruck Vagina," "Asbestos/Esophagus," and "Medusa, Stomach Acid, Brain Cancer," Larson's lashing remonstrations are ratcheted up a few notches in conviction and intensity. Ms. Larson, you put me in a frustrating dilemma—my conscience won't let me be glad that you are pissed off, but it sure does wonders for your music.