7.7

Alice Bag: Blueprint Review

Music Reviews Alice Bag
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Alice Bag: <i>Blueprint</i> Review

In 2016, Alice Bag roared back into music with her first — and only — solo record. Though she co-founded pioneering punk band The Bags in the late 70s, and later played in Castration Squad, The Female Menudo, Las Tres and many more, she’d never made an album centered around her voice, and her voice only. That all changed two years ago with her self-titled release, and now on its follow up, Blueprint, Alice Bag has even more to say.

Few singers can scream like Alice Bag, a woman who’s been raising her voice against injustice and oppression for 40 years. Born Alicia Armendariz in Los Angeles in 1958, Bag’s parents were Mexican immigrants, and her unstable household (as a result of her father) helped her develop a distinct identity within the burgeoning, and largely masculine, L.A. punk scene. Though they only lasted a few years, The Bags were true hardcore revolutionaries, and throughout her life, Bag has continued to uphold that tenacious spirit — in addition to her music, she has worked as a visual artist, author, educator, and activist in a wide variety of forms.

Bag transfers her unstoppable energy to Blueprint, which opens with the pop-punk rallying cry of “Turn It Up.” It’s the sort of upbeat, sing-along anthem you’d hear from an artist decades younger, but when Bag sings of the “poisoned words” and “broken promises of a fateless lover,” she has the life experience to back it up. First and foremost, Blueprint is a fun record — its songs are for dancing, shouting, and generally having a good time. For a hardcore trailblazer, Bag has incredibly astute pop sensibilities, and though Blueprint is stylistically diverse, it’s highly listenable. “Invisible” is layered and seductive, with bright guitars and a buttery smooth chorus, while the driving “Stranger” evokes mid-90s radio ska. The album’s standout single, “Se Cree Joven,” which translates to “she think’s she’s young,” is about rude comments Bag overheard from fellow women shopping at a dollar store. Not realizing she spoke Spanish, the women freely made fun of her clothes. But instead of confronting them, like most people would have, Bag took the high road, writing a song (sung entirely in Spanish) that is confident, playful, and leaves no room for interpretation: after 40 years, Bag is still not to be fucked with.

But Blueprint does not shy away from more serious subject matter. Now approaching 60, Bag’s lyrics reflect her maturity, adding introspective depth to an otherwise luminous record. The shrieking “77” references the sad reality of women making 77 cents to a man’s dollar, with Bag noting that “it’s time for change.” Album closer “White Justice” is a delicate piano ballad with themes that are anything but light. “White Justice just doesn’t work for me/White justice is a travesty,” Bag states with passion and conviction. She’s been utilizing her voice to influence the world for generations, and Blueprint emphasizes that her work is far from done. Whatever Alice Bag wants to talk about, we’re here to listen.