When the 50s Werent Evil

Your new favorite band, the White Stripes, have gotten a lot of mileage out of claiming to be brother and sister, but everyone knows they're really ex-husband and -wife. Albuquerque, New Mexico's Eyeliners, though, are the real deal: three sisters—Gel (guitar, backing vocals), Lisa (bass, backing vocals), and Laura (vocals, drums)—two of whom appear to be twins and all of whom have, roughly, the same face.

But this alone doesn't explain why people talk about the Eyeliners. The talk has more to do with their constant touring and catchy, straight-ahead, Ramones-influenced pop punk. On recent recordings, the Eyeliners sound almost too pretty, their two- and three-part harmonies too polished and perfect, the songs too steadfastly midtempo. There's not enough grit and fucked-upness.

Live, it's a whole different story. Gel becomes some sort of she-beast onstage, jumping around and playing guitar behind her head and doing kicks in the air and blowing bubbles with her gum and doing the splits. I'm lucky if I don't fall down sometimes while standing up, so one can only imagine the dexterity, confidence and sheer coordination necessary to pull off such rock-star moves.

The three sisters first played together in 1995 as Psychodrama, which, if you think about it—if you give it a chance and really let it sink in and wash over you—you will realize is a truly horrible name. They thought so, too, and they became the Eyeliners in 1996. In 1997 and 1998, they released three seven-inches (Broke My Heart, Do the Zombie and Rock N Roll . . . Baby!) and an EP (Confidential) on the Long Beach label Sympathy for the Record Industry. Much touring followed before the 2000 release of their full-length Here Comes Trouble (Panic Button/Lookout!) and the October 2001 release Sealed With a Kiss!

The cover of that last album features '50s-era pulp-fiction-style artwork by Vince Ray. It's an apt illustration of the way they've been presenting themselves for years. I would have been the first to say that all that '50s-era bullshit was played out, but the Eyeliners have found a way to revive it. Maybe it has to do with what they don't do: instead of cluttering their image with muscle cars, hot-rod flames, hair grease and tattoos—standard signifiers for bands trying to inject a dose of '50s-era cool into their punk, which serve ultimately to communicate little more than swaggering testosterone-driven machismo—the Eyeliners, with their leather jackets, leopard prints, Chuck Berry-style guitar leads and innocent songs about rebellious boys named Johnny, tap into the kitschy innocence of the era. The Eyeliners are sweet and adolescent and cartoony, which is the way most Americans want their '50s, even though we all know, deep down, that the '50s were evil. But unlike the '50s, Eyeliners rock.

The Eyeliners play with Madcap and the Skirts at the Glass House, 200 W. Second St., Pomona, (909) 629-0377. Sun., 8 p.m. $8. All ages.

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