Although the Ettes purport to be steeped in bittersweet, girl-group melodies and sugary, power-pop hooks, its impossible to find that kind of charm (at least musically) anywhere on this album. Do You Want Power is full of raw riffs, stomping rhythms and out-for-revenge lyrical concerns. The end result, unfortunately, plays like a warmed-over version of the Gossip at their most middlebrow. The Nashville-via-Los Angeles outfit deliver the tunes on Do You Want Power with energy and precision (I’ll give them that), exuding a go-go-booted hiptitude for all its worth. But when the hooks fall flat, and the songs go in one ear and out the other, as they do time and time again here, such calculated moxie comes off as more shrill and defensive than liberating.
Do You Want Power feels strangely dated, too, fitting in more with the early ‘00s explosion of dance punk bands and Strokes clones than with any sort of vintage pop/garage/punk lineage. Much like the vast majority of those flash-in-the-pan acts, the Ettes fall prey to style over substance. Sure, the guitars are fuzzy, and the keyboards are watusi-inducing enough to conjure a savage-hispter oeuvre, but the songs simply underwhelm.
What’s frustrating is that this is an album that is ostensibly well-crafted. The excellent fuzz-guitar breakdown in “No Homes,” for example, is perfectly placed; each song is solidly structured (if transparently so), and the album’s overall sound is crisp and polished while also appropriately dangerous and raw. Yet despite what appears to be thoughtful deliberation over how to employ such elemental pop ingredients, this is a shockingly dull record. Like the aural equivalent of biting into a stale Twinky, one feels both incredulity and disappointment at the Ettes’ inability to satisfy.
Some props should be given, though, as the Ettes are a tight band with guts and heart (yeah, there’s heart here). It’s clear the members all genuinely like and believe in the music they’re making, even if it plays like a Vercua Salt record for a post Is This It world. Sadly, not even the seemingly infallible Greg Cartwright, who lent his hand to the recording, can save Do You Want Power… unless he’s got a time machine specific enough to take the Ettes back to the three-month period in 2003 when someone might have cared.