Bald Rapunzel – Diazepam

Bald Rapunzel

While Dischord obviously doesn’t have a stranglehold on all of the amazing bands coming out of Washington, DC, it does seem to have a hand in releasing albums by the best of them. Bald Rapunzel is no exception. Diazepam is the first full-length album from this three-year-old DC band, and it clearly is another feather in the Dischord cap.
Bald Rapunzel is a talented rock band, combining elements of emo-rock melodicism with post-hardcore power and pure rock-n-roll. But it’s the vocals of singer/guitarist Bonnie Schlegel that make this band something special. Her mournful, soulful voice sounds somewhat timid at times, but most of the time she is singing her heart – no, her soul out. Her deep, impressive voice is the framework for this strong music, but the guitarwork and, especially, the powerful rhythm section is no less impressive. At times the band sounds like they are combining some of the best female fronted rock bands of the early 90s – namely the Throwing Muses, whose influence I hear here – with the more modern rock of labelmates Burning Airlines and Juno.
The album kicks off with Schlegel demonstrating how good of a singer she actually is, singing a cappella “Dark End of the Street” almost gospel-like. She proves there that she’s got the vocal range and soulful grasp of emotion, and then the guitars and drums kick in for the instrumental rocker “Salute to Nova Scotia.” “Ms. Leading” shows that Schlegel can sing along with the rock finally, her vocals soaring and echoing but equally getting slower and deeper as the guitars wail around her. You can’t help but feel what Schlegel is portraying as she sings out, “yeah it’s all right, I can learn from my mistakes.” Schlegel brings back the best of Kristen Hirsch’s vocals on “Storm,” which is, like it’s name, a flurry of driving guitars and drums. “Ale 81” is a slower, more melodic number, with pretty guitar and more constrained vocals, but the slower and more powerful “Three Weeks” works even better, putting more of concentration on Schlegel’s vocals, which pour out everything here, one of the most amazing and most powerful songs on this album. “Sun Drop” speeds things up again, with some deep, powerful drums and driving guitar contrasting the slower vocals. And the album finishes with “Casa Azure,” another instrumental that shows off the band’s talents, with some complex and melodic guitar and an almost math-rock complexity.
My only complaint is that, at times, the production isn’t quite what it could be. The guitars are occasionally mixed too low in the mix, likely to bring out Schlegel’s vocals and the powerful drums. But that’s a shame, because the guitars here are powerful and sonic, really driving these songs. Other than that, this is an impressive full-length debut from another of DC’s finest. Driving guitars, complex and powerful rhythms, and Schlegel’s soulful, powerful vocals pouring out personal and emotional lyrics create for an intoxicating, moving mix.