The acerbic romance of the Rondelles

Irresistible mission

The acerbic romance of the Rondelles


Captain America

When the lively youth guest drummer Steve Shelley Washers record for her It smells of records label in 1998, there were grunts typical of a few older and more established Burque bands – no names please. After all, they pointed out, Juliet Swango (guitar, vocals), Oakley Munson (keyboards, drums, vocals) and Yukiko Moynihan (bass) were barely graduating from high school.

Criticisms like, They didn’t pay their dues, or, Someone has to sleep with Shelley did the rounds but the truth was that many local “punk” musicians never took the band seriously. This despite three years of experience already under the Pucks belt, having trained as 11e graders. There was the mandatory in-house demo (my copy was recorded on side A of a Guns N ‘Roses tape) plus two 7-inch releases on Grime Records and Teenbeat, as well as a cut to a local composition from Pocket Protector Records. As if that weren’t enough, the trio backed Jet Jaguar (Brad Beshaw, owner of local trashy bookstore / video Wavy Brain) as the final roster of their wonderfully goofball sci-fi group. Luxo Champion.

All the complaints were just sour grapes if you ask me. Listeners loved to listen to catchy pop tunes about the craze for math geeks and unshared crushes for boys who prefer to watch TV. The lyrics were as crisp as the sound was raw. Swango played the four-string guitar. No, not a “four-string guitar” but one that had four strings. Munson got up and tapped a snare drum and top hat with a drumstick and with his other hand played a keyboard barely better than a Toys “R” Us special. Moynihan was just learning bass. The time signatures were staggered and the vocals weren’t always right, but that wasn’t new 20 years after punk threw the rules out the window.

The critics who called Les Rondelles “riot grrrlWere confused as those making comparisons to The Go-Go were just lazy reporters. It was simply lo-fi teenage pop with spiked spikes on romance lurking beneath the pleasure.

After the Washers moved to Washington DC in 1999, Albuquerque hasn’t heard much from the trio. Opening for Sonic Youth and Sleater-Kinney, a European tour (with an expanded and denser lineup) and a recording for Teenbeat and K Records kept the group busy.

In 2001, however, the Washers were gone: Munson moved to New York and formed the rock n ‘Rolling Stones combo. Witnesses. Swango was back in Burque at the end of 2002 facing the wham-glam-thank-you-momam Sweatband which later (luckily) changed its name to The Foxx in honor of the feature film Teenbeat des Rondelles Fox.

When Munson is moving Puddin’Tang played here in 2007 The Rondelles sans Moynihan played a low-profile reunion set with Pablo Novelas (Dirty novels) skipping on bass. Not even all of the Foxx members recognized Swango when she showed up with a black wig to cover her short blonde hair. Munson supplemented the follicular follies by smoothing out his massive post-Albuquerque fro. The two looked like they were in high school and were having fun just as much.

Last summer, the group reformed for two concerts in New York. If I had any bitter grapes, it would be that the Rondelles couldn’t put on a show here too. But since I got to see the trio back when they were getting caps and dresses fitted, I have no complaints.

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