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October 2006

The Contractions

THE CONTRACTIONS -- MARY KELLEY on lead guitar, KATHY PECK on bass, and DEBBIE HOPKINS on drums -- burned across the national Punk/New Wave scene from 1979 through 1985. One of the very first all-female rock bands to establish a national reputation, their rough-edged music mixed an urban garage-rock sound with a pop-punk sensibility and grabbed immediate fan and critical support. The "criminally underrated trio" according to Ira Robbins from Trouser Press is back together, compiling a new CD and brewing up more of their on-stage magic.

The Contractions held a unique position in the varied San Francisco punk scene in the early eighties, not just as one of the few all-girl bands, but more for the way they played. One moment they were playing straight-ahead rock'n'roll, a power-trio that brought to mind The Police -- Debbie a veteran drummer with jazz sensibilities, Kathy playing melodic bass lines on her Hofner, Mary with her Pete Townsend-windmill guitar moves -- then just when you thought you knew what you were listening to, the band became James Joyce and Link Wray wrapped into one, Mary singing poetry over slow, mesmerizing, watery guitar then tearing into a guitar solo worthy of Eric Clapton.

Many fans loved their shows for that element of surprise, and for the chemistry that happened between them, a strange combination of elements that would sometimes surge up and seem almost out of control. The Contractions made magic on stage. Every show was new.

In the context of louder-harder-faster that was punk rock, The Contractions could play it, but they could do more than just be loud, or fast, or hard. They embodied the best of rock'n'roll while infusing their music with poetics that bordered on performance art. The contrast between the performers' styles and images helped to create the tension in their triangle on stage, visually as well as musically. They stood out, and rapidly made their way through the clubs to be one of the top headliners of their day, playing to packed houses at The Mabuhay Gardens, the Deaf Club, Tool & Die, The Berkeley Square, and many other Bay Area venues.

The Contractions -- Debbie Hopkins, Mary Kelley and Kathy Peck -- have each followed their own musical pursuits, though they've periodically joined up for reunion shows. These shows prove to audiences, and each other, that they still tune in to a unique power triangle. The Contractions have put our a new CD ( Live at Lennon and Live at SIR and DVD Live at SIR ), playing and recording together again, and brewing up more of their on-stage magic.

H.E.A.R. is thrilled to honor the Contractions!


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