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The Donnas 

Gold Medal (Atlantic)

The ambitions of overly rouged tots in beauty pageants are not always their own. Behind the plastic smiles and freakish poise of these living porcelain dolls are the unfulfilled goals of parents who stuff their kidlets into ruffles to overcompensate for their own pimply adolescence.

The same analogy applies to Butch Walker's producing style. A shoulda-been with his '70s-power-rock-leaning band Marvelous 3, Walker employs a knob-spinning modus operandi in his solo work that depends heavily on making every band he works with resemble his own commercial flops.

This reverse-Midas touch infiltrates the Donnas' latest disc, Gold Medal. Instead of the AC/DCisms the Bay Area foursome unleashed on Spend the Night, their mainstream breakthrough in 2002, Medal is beholden to power poppers Holly & the Italians and Cheap Trick for its brash melodic chords and midtempo arena screamers begging for a bitchin' Camaro and some Schlitz tallboys. This posturing works in spots -- the gleeful jukebox romp "Have You No Pride" and vocalist Brett Anderson's successful metamorphosis from punk rock Lolita to metal vixen vamp on "It's So Hard." Overall, however, Medal feels sluggish and devoid of the Donnas' playful sass. Judges, award this disc nothing above the bronze.

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