- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2001

To resort to deconstructing a band's name in search of insight may be hackneyed, but in this case Webster's — which defines brassy as "shamelessly bold" — does as good a job as Spin magazine, Melody Maker and others seeking to understand Brassy.

The band, based in Manchester, England, fires out an eminently danceable mix. It's confident, unapologetic and borrows with reverential abandon from a dozen influences.

Frontwoman Muffin Spencer calls it "modern guitar music" with a foundation built from rap and hip-hop. (Yes, Spencer, as in the younger sister of bluesman Jon Spencer.)

Miss Spencer left New Hampshire right after high school for England in 1986 in search of good music and intending to join a band. But she says that after frustrating years of trying to work with others' songs, she decided to do it herself.

So, in 1995, Brassy was formed.

Jonny Barrington (dba DJ Swett), scratches, samples and plays drums. Bassist Karen Forest joins Miss Spencer on vocals, while Stefan Gordon handles guitar.

"A huge, stomping hip-hop sound" is what the group wanted for its album, a collection of three singles that came out in 1995 on a now-defunct label, Miss Spencer says. But, produced on the cheap, it sounded tinny and like punk rock, she says.

Still, the band persisted, touring throughout Great Britain and winning a loyal and enthusiastic following.

It secured a deal with Wiiija for it first album, "Got It Made," distributed in the States by the Beggars Group.

A year in the making, the 14-song album is crisp, creative, and kinetic.

The running time: 41 minutes.

Driven by an amalgam of rap, hip-hop and an occasional hint of drum and bass, the group infuses the album with delicious doses of sassy riot-girl pop, garage guitars, clever sampling and even a cello riff or two. (Miss Spencer played cello before taking up the guitar.)

Think Go-Gos meet Doug E. Fresh, a little Beastie Boys and Lunachicks on the side, and the occasional foray into Komeda.

Those in the stand-at-the-back-of-the-room-with-their-arms-crossed crowd will find the album shallow. Although the album certainly is derivative and occasionally redundant, it's heartfelt — and that which is borrowed is better off for the use.

Brassy's shows are a high-energy, nonstop remix, when the niggling details of refinement are dropped, Miss Spencer says.

"We are a mess. But a good mess," she says.

Told that Washington is notorious for greeting even the most energetic of bands with crossed arms and an affected air of uninterest, Miss Spencer is unimpressed.

"Oh, yeah," she says, threatening unspecified retribution or, more to the point, shamelessly bold and irresistible music.WHAT: BrassyWHERE: 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NWWHEN: March 22TICKETS: $10PHONE: 703/573-SEAT, 202/432-SEAT or 800/551-SEAT

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