by Scott Deckman
Donora is somewhat derivative, but what in rock’n’roll isn’t? Guitar, bass, drums, singer: It’s all tried, tested, and true, and excepting truly unique acts, it’s all been done before. Donora is a female-fronted poppy trio your girlfriend would like, and they’re solid enough to play a Corin Tucker tribute. I may be stretching here, but they sound like a poppier Kolwalskis, a New York City band active in the late ’90s who never quite made it, despite stylized Debbie Harry-ed singer Laurie Anderson. On their eponymous freshman release, Donora isn’t that sexy, but the tunes are competent.
Album opener “Shout,” with its steady beat and repeated chorus, makes you want to boogie. On different songs, the band makes use of a Casio SK-5 synthesizer, adding to their overall ’80s revival sheen. “Shhh” hears frontwoman Casey Hanner whispering annoyingly into your speaker, while “Weekend Tongue” pushes the new wave arraignment to its logical conclusion. The Go-Go’s and Blondie influences are there, and Hanner sounds a little like Nina Gordon and Louise Post of Veruca Salt fame. Though, like most singers, she has her own timbre.
Piano-driven “I Think I Like You” reminds one of a less spiky Franz Ferdinand, while some explorations into adult contemporary territory (“The Chorus” and “London”) and the experimental (“Shak’ida”) don’t work as well. Donora does a much better job playing to their pop strengths. For whatever reason, good, solid pop (never mind power pop) has never made it as big as you’d think on the radio, but that shouldn’t stop a band from doing what it does best.
“Saturday Night,” with its sing-along chorus, reminds you of a good time at the local pub with 50 or so intimate friends. And that’s the best thing I can say about the band. Come to think of it, that’s rich praise indeed.