When the Los Angeles-based Linda Lindas went from area obscurity to instant YouTube sensation last year, it was hard not to feel like the quartet would be a one and done.
Don’t feel bad if you were one of the doubters despite cranking up “Racist, Sexist Boy” every time it came up on a post-riot-girrrl Apple Music playlist. Your parents once thought that Beck would be 15-minutes famous for nothing but “Loser”, Weezer would have nothing to offer but “Buddy Holly”, and Ugly Kid Joe would tap out after “Everything About You”. They were mostly wrong. Except about Ugly Kid Joe, which was okay because Ugly Kid Joe hated everything about your parents, your parents’ friends, their various pets, and their distant relatives back in the old country.
But back to the Linda Lindas, who’ve just announced a spring release for their debut album, Growing Up. The full-length—on punk-rock powerhouse Epitaph Records—will hit streaming and download services on April 8, followed by bricks-and-mortar record stores on June 3. Based on the just-released video for the album’s title track, the quartet of Bela Salazar, Eloise Wong, Lucia de la Garza, and Mila de la Garza are still on a mission to kick the world in the crotch, even if they’re a touch nicer this time around.
In “Growing Up”, things start out sugar-sweet in a bedroom where all four members converge to play dress up for a gaggle of cats. Thirty seconds in, the Linda Lindas change gears, channeling a strain of crash-and-bang ’90s grunge pop that falls somewhere between the Babes and Toyland and the Blake Babies—except twice as infectious, three times as exuberant, and endearingly unjaded.
That the band appears dialled in and ready for a post-15-minutes of fame on Growing Up’s first offering is inspiring. Because, let’s be honest, half the brilliance of “Racist, Sexist Boy” was the story behind it: four teens set up in a Los Angeles library and then ripped into a feral punk rager inspired by a real-life event. That moment was captured on camera for nothing but posterity, and then posted on YouTube where it unexpectedly caught fire.
Breaking down “Racist, Sexist Boy” at the time it surfaced, Mila de la Garza said, “A little while before we went into lockdown, a boy came up to me in my class and said that his dad told him to stay away from Chinese people. After I told him that I was Chinese, he backed away from me. Eloise and I wrote this song based on that experience.”
There were a bunch of possible explanations for the song going viral. Anti-Asian incidents were on the rise in the U.S., in no small part thanks to a certain tangerine-coloured clown’s time in the White House. You might remember Mango Mussolini spending his final months in office suggesting COVID-19 was a Chinese creation that should rightly be called the Kung Flu. Someone needed to take aim at America’s future FluTruxKlan sympathizers, and who better to show the next generation a way forward than a band made up Asian and Latinx member still in their middle teens.
Or maybe it hit because, in a world where small live-music clubs were (and remain today) empty thanks to a virus that won’t go away, people wanted to see a group of kids, not far removed from the garage, step up and let rip with fuck all to lose. Rock ’n’ roll has always been at its best when its primal, and “Racist, Sexist Boy” was exactly that.
Or maybe a new wave of young female kids were thrilled by the reminder that girls can give ’er just as hard as boys. The Lunachicks, L7, Bratmobile, and mighty Bikini Kill did no shortage of kicking down walls that, insanely, were still standing back in the ’90s. The Linda Lindas have been not only keenly aware of the debt they owe those bands today, but seemingly determined to pay things forward.
One and done? Based on “Growing Up”, it doesn’t look like that’s going to be the case. But even if things end up going that way, there are worse things. Ugly Kid Joe may be an obscure punchline joke today, but, admit it, “Everything About You” remains a repulsively great song.