Recording information: Station House Studios.
Like most of the great bands of the first wave of L.A. punk, the Bags didn't leave behind much of a recorded legacy. With major labels unwilling to sign the early L.A. bands, they had to wait until local indies got their act together in order to record, and as a consequence the Bags released just one single and a few compilation tracks during their 1977-1980 existence. Lead singer Alice Bag was a more important figure on the Los Angeles music scene than the Bags' tiny discography would suggest. Bag was a fine and passionate singer and lyricist, she was one of the first Chicanas in punk rock, and her appearance in the iconic documentary The Decline of Western Civilization demonstrates what a powerful performer she was. Between marriage, raising children, a career as an educator, and writing two books, Bag had only so much time to spend on her music after the Bags broke up, and remarkably, 2016's Alice Bag is not only her first solo album, but her first album period. However, these 11 songs leave no doubt that Bag is a major artist who still has plenty to say nearly 40 years after she started her first band. While there's plenty of full-on punk rock on Alice Bag, she's a more diverse performer than that, and the album is a joyously eclectic package, incorporating no-quarter rock ("Little Hypocrite"), mature and low-key pop ("Suburban Home"), thoughtful and arty numbers ("Weigh About You"), Latin-accented folk-rock ("Incorporeal Life"), and updated girl-group sounds ("He's So Sorry"). As a vocalist, Bag is as gifted and confident performing ballads as she is belting out tough-as-nails rock & roll. And she can take on subjects like domestic violence, date rape, corporate schooling, genetically modified crops, and society's expectations of women and sound smart but unpretentious, principled without hectoring. Bag also has a fine set of musicians backing her up, who live up to the full-bodied standard of her vocals, and her production (with Lysa Flores) is excellent. Alice Bag isn't a belated victory lap from a veteran of the punk rock wars, it's a diverse and deeply satisfying album from an artist who is finally getting a chance to live up to her great potential, and here she isn't missing a trick. ~ Mark Deming