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Guillotine Riot and Their Gospel of Debauchery

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by Freya Wilcox

We all know about New York City’s rich history of rock. For decades, countless bars, films, photographs, and anecdotes from greying “would-have-been” rock stars have told tales of the 4/4 heartbeat that rose from the once smoke-filled and sweaty clubs of downtown Manhattan.

While we can all guess that rock ’n’ roll is as permanent a fixture in this city as the multiplying tattoos beneath pseudo-poet’s faux-leather sleeves, it’s hard at times to completely feel a part of the scene that bitter lips swear once existed.

Last Wednesday night (11/28), on Fontana’s underground stage, Guillotine Riot and their tight brand of rock (dubbed “porno-punk”) allowed a buzzing, albeit modest audience to sleep safe in the knowledge that real debauchery still exists beneath the blanket of Fender-wielding Clark Kent lookalikes and endless Nirvana knock-offs.

Fronted by inked and corseted singer (screamer/howler/moaner), Christa Imbriale, the foursome tore through a sex-centric, punk-scented set to get hearts pumping and hormones raging.

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Their catchy punk-rock riffs—backed by maniacal drummer, Alberto Botero—are abrasive without hitting the raw nerve in the part of your brain that knows better than to put on The Slits at someone else’s party.

Paul Taite’s work on the fast-picked, treble-laden bass must truly be commended; too often the chug and flourish of punk bass is lost in a phrase of its own, yet Guillotine Riot’s power no doubt lays in the powerhouse rhythm section, driven forward by John Burns' rip-roaring riffs.

As the band worked their way through the set, Christa sang like a horny hair-metal rocker trapped in the body of his young prey. Her sharp banter between songs and lurid lyrics led the audience from taking off a guy’s pants to burning his house down (which she swears she never actually did), as she moved authoritatively and seductively around the stage, occasionally swigging from a bottle of wine.

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Their fast-paced set was punctuated with gems like “Flower,” allowing Christa’s vocal capacity to shine with several sweetly sung verses that would make Prince blush, while a snappy Bikini Kill cover blared the comparison the audience had been dying to make.

Guillotine Riot provided the power and energy of the rock bands that took the city by storm decades ago, while bringing forth a fresh and empowering sense of musical prowess, entertainment, and sex appeal. They are not a gimmick, but a group of excellent musicians making punk rock and revered dirty talk accessible and entertaining. If anything, they could allow more chaos to seep into their performance to shepherd the impact of their “Gospel of Debauchery.”

They will be recording their debut album with the legendary Steve Albini in 2013, but are offering their Violent Sex EP free from their site. If you’ve lost your faith in music of late, these guys are a must see.

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