For someone who likes (or at least liked) to parade pig heads onstage and smear blood on her clothes, Teri Gender Bender sure loves melody and classic rock. Guitar riffs based on blues scales give the rhythmic and melodic backbone to this record. This is just to soften the blow, a way for her abrasive and passionate lyrics to arrive in a familiar vessel, something to anchor the highly emotional baggage found within Cry is for the Flies. This is a heavy record.
A lot has happened since Teri started confronting small audiences. Originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, she moved her project to the U.S. to pursue her path, where she has found collaborators and well wishers as diverse and legendary as Iggy Pop, Omar Rodríguez (with whom she formed Bosnian Rainbows), and members of The Locust. Her impact on the Mexican scene was short but piercing, and she has been accumulating bigger achievements every day since. Le Butcherettes are making it the old-fashioned way, one fan at a time. Still, it hasn’t been all smiles for the artist informally known as Teresa Suárez, since she has left friends and family in order to follow her muse.
Cry is for the Flies opens with “Burn The Scab,” driven by a grinding guitar and a pulsating organ. It’s easy to recall past eras when these types of riffs, beats, and voices have been in vogue. That being said, you can’t really pin the style down to a single time or artist. Teri is smart; she parts from a simple, timeless sound and goes from there to make it her own with her expressive voice and razor-sharp words.
The first couple of songs on the record are scathing, with strong feelings coming out of Teresa’s voice in such a heavy way that you can almost touch them. “My Child,” for example, features a very catchy chorus to wrap up a melodically inventive yet creepy song. Her delivery isn’t “angry,” not exclusively at least. Le Butcherettes sound incendiary and ripe with emotions only controlled by the instruments’ timbres.
“Moment of Guilt,” track five, is an anomaly. A spoken-word piece written and performed by Henry Rollins, it’s a distinct moment not only in the record but in the band’s whole catalog. Here’s the ex-Black Flag singer having a conversation with“guilt,” no bluesy guitars or Teri’s eclectic and electric voice. In fact, the track only features his voice. However, its inclusion is one of thematic importance. Many of the songs deal with the remorse that comes from migrating to the U.S. in order to follow her dream and vocation, as she has said in interviews. “Moment Of Guilt” switches cameras to look at Teri and her songs from a different perspective, to consider giving them a look through different lenses.
After this song, the album becomes a little more diverse, melodic, and daring. We can find the rollicking ebb and flow of “Normal You Were,” as well as the showtune-y and urgent “Poet From Nowhere.” The last track brings things to an intense finale. “Crying Out To The Flies,” with its dirge-y march and brilliant monolithic melody, is almost operatic in its mission and execution. It’s a great way to end the album and an amazing showcase for Suárez’s many talents.
While the album deals with guilt and abandon, her lyrics don’t touch the subject in a sociopolitical manner like other, more conscious, artists might do. She’s speaking for one person. Her struggles expressed through her words sound deeper (at least more painful) than most that try to explain diaspora as a big picture topic. Suárez goes straight to the poetic, grabbing her beating and bleeding heart and getting it to yell about what it is to become a stranger in a strange land. She deals with her doubts and feelings head on, with brute force and without hiding. In the end, Cry is for the Flies is a display of an artist coming to terms with her world, bringing a sample of her raw nerves and guts for the listener’s pleasure and, perhaps, even their sympathy.
(Photo Credits: Kyle de Lotto / Dan Wilton)