The band is named “Thelma and the Sleaze” and their album is titled Fuck. Marry. Kill. This should tell a lot of what you need to know about this Nashville-born touring machine, but it doesn’t tell you everything. Thelma and the Sleaze aren’t a new entity by any means; they’ve been touring hard for years and have cranked out several albums, with F.M.K. being a nice consolidation of their strengths and quirks. Founded and fronted by the candid and comical LG (Lauren Gilbert) who has remained a constant as 15 Sleazies have passed through the group over the past decade, T&TS has remained a going concern in the Nashville region against the usual tide of money and life troubles that any band on the fringes is inevitably going to face. With the newest record and a fresh round of just-completed tour dates, it seems as if LG and her band have attained a veteran survival grace that suits their sound and image well.
Even though T&TS is, and always has been, an all-female band, LG has been hesitant to play up this angle too much, taking a more “a band is a band is a band” attitude not dissimilar to original girl band pioneer Joan Jett. It’s the music which matters, and The Sleaze come at you with the types of crunchy, singing riffs that modern critics tend to wag fingers at but which remain too delicious to die. The riffs in question spool forth from the SG slung over LG’s shoulders, a bonafide guitar hero at a time when such a thing isn’t supposed to exist. Then there’s “Coochie” on keys and “Snowflake” on rhythm, plus a revolving cast of session and gig bassists, making up a truly killer road dog live act that delivers the goods in clubs and dives across the country. The band recently relocated to Alabama because “Nashville is full of posers and copycat bands. Plus, it’s too expensive”. This is obviously not a band for the fully-gentrified and conquered territories of the current day urban centers.
I had the pleasure of seeing T&TS tear up just such a club recently in Cleveland. Going into the gig I had never heard of them; within days after the gig I was deep into their back catalog. Furious, frenetic, catchy; this band is everything someone like me wants in a rock band. There was even an altercation at one point during the gig. Exactly what happened remains unclear, but LG had to exit stage left and the show hilariously and competently completed by the ever-dependable Coochie. Real rock n’ roll alert, indeed! LG’s voice has that Joplin rasp utilized by rock-leaning woman singers since the day Pearl came out, but if you dig a little deeper there are hints of Ricky Lee Jones and Tanya Tucker, along with heavy doses of blues and soul. LG is the type of front person who owns a stage, far from the shrugging, “Hey I’m harmless here” 2019 indie front person template.
Fuck. Marry. Kill is full of the types of rock bangers that would have been all over the radio up until 1998 or so. “Pain”, the album’s single, will serve as a great introduction, but my favorite remains “Buyin It”, a genuine female empowerment anthem delivered in a style many leagues removed from the current pop princess feminist angle so popular at the moment. Thelma and the Sleaze is a whole different beast.
Tina Romano & Jessica Komyati