Erase Errata are a trio of women from San Francisco who have a warped take on the early Eighties post-punk sound of bands such as Gang of Four and Public Image Limited. Looking like chic librarians who have stumbled across a rock band's set-up, they make a fiercely intelligent racket, with fistfuls of discordant guitar notes puncturing the disco-influenced grooves.
Nightlife, their third album, adds lyrical bite to the group's angular art rock. Themes range from abstract social commentary to political diatribes against the US government. On "Tax Dollar", singer/guitarist Jenny Hoyston decries "Murder, manslaughter/All funded by my tax dollar", while coaxing some truly nasty sounds from her guitar. Other songs ("Dust", "Giant Hans") eschew the usual verse-chorus-verse structure for disjointed flows of sound, where Hoyston's yelps are offset by whistling and the odd snatch of trumpet-playing. This assault on the senses can make for tough listening at times, but the music is underpinned by simple, infectious rhythms, such as the cowbell-laden beat of the opening track "Cruising".
It is a mark of the band's musical talent that they sound as exhilarating on record as they do live. Despite their obvious musical skill - bassist Ellie Erickson in particular has a truly innovative style of playing - there's not a hint of showiness about them. No sound is wasted, and this stripped-down aesthetic makes for a fearsome listening experience. If rock music in the 2000s has been defined by a rediscovery of the genre's power to make you dance (witness the success of "disco-punk" bands such as The Rapture and LCD Soundsystem), then Erase Errata are a reminder of how rock can be awkward and unsettling, even as it moves your feet.