The Reputation's singer-guitarist Elizabeth Elmore harks back to the early alt-rock '90s and spunky women like Kristin Hersh (Throwing Muses), Marcy Mays (Scrawl), Juliana Hatfield, and Liz Phair. Like them, Elmore uses serrated guitar lines to complement her fiery independence and shield her vulnerabilities in songs that wind around issues of determination and isolation. "There's nothing much else to do/But grit your teeth and try to get by/The next great gulf that widens inside," Elmore sings, as the volume rises and the guitars gallop into the chorus of "Face It," from the group's second album, To Force a Fate
Elmore's brash, bash-and-pop style began with DIY punkers Sarge, and over time she has sanded back the edges and opened a few windows; what's emerged is music torn between attack and surrender -- an aggressive roar mediated by catchy choruses, bitterness giving way to acceptance and resilience. The resultant clamor is tougher than power pop and more to the point than most indie rock. It's like the Afghan Whigs' Gentlemen from a female perspective, with a bit more propulsive punch and ragged crunch.