Review by Kris Smith Rainbow Reservoir 'Channel Hanna' LP/DL (Odd Box, February 2018)
Like Nervous Twitch and Bis, Rainbow Reservoir are a female-fronted power-pop/punk trio. Like Schande and Death of the Elephant, they’re a British, but American-fronted, indiepop/riot grrrl-influenced trio. That’s about all I can tell you about Rainbow Reservoir, except that they’re clearly some genus of digital outlaw, having their own website but no Facebook page. Oh, wait, there’s more: this seems to be the group’s third record, and their second on Odd Box Records, after a self-released EP and 2016’s ‘Coco Sleeps Around‘ – none of whose tracks appear again on this 12-track LP, which by the way you should totally purchase on pink vinyl immediately if you haven’t already by the end of this paragraph.
Not only does the record begin with a tune mocking Queen Liz the 2nd (‘Brenda’, to Private Eye readers), with its stand-out lyric “stealing is a crime unless you’re born behind the palace gates,” [see also: The Clash’s ‘Know Your Rights’ – Punk Ed.] but it follows up with the excellent pun-tastic title track hymning Kathleen The Great (“change the station – channel Hanna!”) which, like following track ‘Podium Girls’, has Angela backing herself on vocals.
After establishing a strong formula of keening vocal and fast, crunchy guitars, the albums’ pace slows for ‘Man O’ War’, picks up again for ‘Forest Fire’ and changes completely for synth-lullaby ‘Rainbows Don’t End’, with no drop in songwriting quality. At first listen the slower tracks weren’t to my taste, but on repeated listen they’re some of my favourites – a solid sign of a multi-layered record. Next track ‘Fuzzy’ ticks too many twee boxes for my liking, but rattles (and fuzzes) along nicely enough. Next track ‘Drunk Maria’ (“kept the nuns up all night!”) is better, with a beautifully-gnarly chord sequence reminiscent of something from legendary West Coast punk label Dangerhouse Records [note to self: update references – Ed.] and some great group b.v.’s from the band.
‘Gold Star Girl’ is another gentler song, and ‘Blue Crab’ another stripped-down lullaby which somehow both pass through my cynical filters intact, while the crunchy guitars kick back in for ‘Posh Ponytails’ (“the world doesn’t need any more!”) and the slower ‘Big Bunny’ which ends the record on a surreal lyric that, potentially for the first time in song, manages to rhyme “habit” with “rabbit”.
With the passing of labels like Fortuna Pop, Tuff Enuff and Soft Power, Odd Box Records’ already-strong credentials in the field of quality indie punk pop (much of it female-driven) now look more vital than ever. This album is a worthy follow up to last autumn’s excellent Suggested Friends debut and can be filed alongside Peaness, Wolf Girl, Witching Waves, Nervous Twitch, the Ethical Debating Society and the reformed Darling Buds as part of an increasingly impressive Odd Box roster. Long may the bands and label continue.