Thelma & the Sleaze
What’s up? You like rock ’n’ roll? Are you into garage-punk songs with a self-aware, trashy, southern-rock vibe? Well, you will be! Thelma and the Sleaze are a feisty bunch from Nashville who embody Music City’s proud (overlooked) tradition of over-the-top performance and, beyond that, play by no known previous rules of engagement.
This genre-tampering crew has some Cheap Trick swagger and some girl-group harmony, and appears to be a by-product of the riot grrrl movement while not actually sounding like Bikini Kill or any of those ’90s feminist punk insurgents. Nah man, fitting into preselected categories isn’t really on the agenda for Thelma and the Sleaze. While, overall, one might pick up on similarities to bands like the Coathangers, BOYTOY or Shannon and the Clams, truth be told, none of those bands sound much like each other, either. The vibe is all Thelma and the Sleaze, and is probably as informed by Nashville’s (deceptively) diverse music scene — of which Country, Inc., is but a part — as it is by whoever sparked each band member’s individual interests.
Many musicians stand too heavily on the shoulders of giants in order to find their sound. Being truly carefree, hearing the muse when it calls and creating something new, is much harder to do, and to quantify. It would be easy enough to say that Thelma and the Sleaze are a rock ’n’ roll band, but they encapsulate much more than that one-note attempt at classification allows. They’re a hot stew of ideas with a whole rack of spices thrown in, but the base is pure rock ’n’ roll.
Sure, the sounds they make wouldn’t be out of place in a biker bar filled with broken bottles and smoke, but imbue their music with a feminist, queer sensibility, so it’s a little more complicated than three riffs and four-on-the-floor beats. This is what makes the band interesting: They are an island unto themselves even as they share community with some of the best up-and-coming groups around. Wear your party pants and dancing shoes because, baby, it’s on!