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Girl in a Coma
Both Before I'm Gone

Mom, wait -- don't throw out my hair goop, cuz I'm bringing back my Morrissey-styled pompadour that I tortured you and Dad with during high school. The Queen is not dead, lads, she's just moved to San Antonio. Well, actually, it's three young ladies that make up the band Girl in a Coma, hailing from the Alamo city, and they have totally blindsided me with their debut CD, Both Before I'm Gone. Obvious is the inspiration taken from both The Smiths and Moz, from their name to the singing style and even some of the lyrical content (who else but Moz, and now GIAC, sing about Oscar Wilde characters and celibacy?). Make no mistake, though -- these girls' style, edge, attitude, and talent are all their own.

Now, I may be biased, since as mentioned, I was a Smiths devotee way back when, but it's not just me that's been wowed by Girl in a Coma. Joan Jett saw them play and signed them on the spot to her Blackheart Records label. And they've already played the Vans Warped Tour, opened for The Pogues and Frank Black, and even toured with their idol Moz himself. Girl In a Coma's lead singer/guitarist, Nina Diaz, has a huge voice. At times she can sing a sad lullaby with a voice that carries and resonates like Patsy Cline, and then she can holler, raspy punk-rock style, a la Joan Jett or rockabilly singers of days past, and the whole time she trembles and inflects in homage to her hero Morrissey. While she's belting out these complex and arresting vocals, she's also playing guitar and soloing. The rhythm section of GIAC is strong, too, with Phanie D., Nina's sister, on drums keeping everything on track and using the cymbals to fill in the space. And Phanie's long-time friend and fellow art class cut up, Jenn, takes on a lot of the instrumentation with plenty of nice bass riffing.

Both Before I'm Gone is an unbelievable debut CD. While the singing is reminiscent of Moz (or the voice he dreamt he had, anyway), the music is jumped up and rowdier, with nods more to Nirvana and Social Distortion in places rather than The Smiths. Much punkier, but still on the pop side. My favorite song is "Their Cell," which starts with a dreamy guitar riff before Nina croons in like an AM-radio songbird with an Elvis-arched lip, "I'm saving all my secrets for a deaf man / Blabber on / I blabber on." Then bam, the snare kicks in, and slow, swaying bass notes set the mood to a song that builds heart-wrenchingly from there. Opposite to that is the song "Say," which is an in-your-face-rocking declaration of she-ness.

"Clumsy Sky," the disc's first single, and "Road to Home" are also instantly likable and show the band's catchy songwriting abilities, while "Sybil Vane was Ill" displays a darker, psycho-ier side. And I like the driving, jangly "Mr. Chivalry," to boot. GIAC goes mathy on the frenetic "Race Car Driver" and waltzes loudly on "Consider" and "Celibate Now." The acoustic ender "Simple Man" shuts the door on the disc, which is currently at the top of my collection, a collection in which I'm ashamed to admit that there are far too few female bands. I'd say the (clumsy) sky is the limit for Girl in a Coma.