by Nick Hanover
Any BDSM devotee can tell you there is pleasure to be found in pain. In the case of Lola Tried, the pleasure comes not from receiving or inflicting it but reckoning with it. The band’s eponymous debut full length is a ten track tour through painful experiences reconstructed as cathartic anthems, unified by Lauren Burton’s bold, relentless vocals and barbed wire lyrics, every moment reflective of its simultaneously horrifying and celebratory cover art featuring someone triumphantly raising up a blood splattered hand holding pliers containing what is presumably their own freshly pulled tooth. Together the music and art loudly declare that it’s not about how bad you hurt but how you get beyond the hurting.
“Pulling Teeth,” the track that cover explicitly reference, is an ideal representation of the album’s message of working past the pain. After a fuzzed out verse where Burton sneers over a stop start rhythm that puts Ray Flynt’s highly disciplined drumming at the forefront, she segues into the chorus, sweetly whispering “now we’re pulling teeth” before reaching up high, bluntly stating she “won’t back down” from standing her ground against a partner trying to humiliate and manipulate her.
There’s ample history there to show that Burton’s confidence and willingness to stand up for herself didn’t come naturally but was developed over years of pain and pressure. That journey is detailed on “San Marcos,” the standout track from last year’s Popsicle Queen EP, with Burton singing about how she “hated all the music I made in San Marcos,” sighing over how “wrapped up I was in all the art school caricatures” of that small town college life. What follows is a story about dating “a jerk who left me on the side of the road,” and a simultaneous paralyzing fear of doing too much looking back, both of which are eventually overcome and hardened from coals into the pop punk diamond that is “San Marcos.”
The adventure from “San Marcos” to now even gets a spiritual sequel of sorts in “Bummertown,” where both Burton’s voice and the guitars are cranked up and snarling, taking on the fools and mediocre men holding her back openly rather than internally. It’s the fight to “San Marcos’s” flight reflex, a direct confrontation of the enemies trying to turn your home into the “Bummertown” of the title. But Burton’s most effective commentary on toxic male foolishness comes in “Boy,” a ‘50s pop ballad style song that has Burton bluntly telling a rage prone guy in her life “You’re a grown man now/But you’ve still got boy in your veins.”
Yet some of the most profound pain felt on the album comes not from aggressors but the people who are unable or unwilling to grow with Burton. “Katrina’s Number” has a fun and twisty cowpunk feel but lyrically it explores the hurt of apathy, as Burton pours her heart out to a friend in a letter and is disappointed the friend can’t even pick up the phone and call her back. Later, “Katy” has Burton channeling Neko Case as she pities someone who’s losing their way, the “Be My Baby” beat giving ground to a fleet footed rhythm and group vocal coos that function like a musical yellow brick road.
Still, Burton understands that your journey is your own and trying to get someone to change if they don’t want to is like, well, pulling teeth. Lola Tried may not singlehandedly turn anyone else’s pain into musical lemonade but in Burton’s case it has, resulting in a work that not only overcomes personal suffering but shapes it into something beautiful and transformative.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover