Two years ago, FEA debuted at Maverick Music Festival as a fast and furious outfit armed with Chicana punk politics and a rhythm section to make the Misfits green with envy. Girl in a Coma alums Phanie Diaz and Jenn Alva enjoyed not only the rarity of being a hometown favorite on the first show, but the freedom to be as bad as they wanted to be outside of their alt-rock band of note. Singer Letty Martinez whipped the crowd into a frenzy, despite 20-odd feet of river between the band and its fans at the Arneson Theatre.
Two years and thousands of road-worn hours later, FEA has released an embattled debut of Chicana punk rock. Not that it’s a contest, but Alva and Diaz beat out fellow Girl in a Coma Nina Diaz to the first, full record in their hiatus.
Produced by Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!, Lori Barbero of Babes in Toyland and Alice Bag of OG, LA punks The Bags, FEA placed themselves in good company. It’s hard to make high fidelity punk sound good — clean it up too much and the energy of the live set evaporates But the album pulls of the feat, with a fat bass tone, in-your-face guitar and Letty Martinez careening about on top.
Like producers and past tour mates Against Me! and Babes in Toyland, FEA goes in with an encompassing political approach, working with a clear mission but avoiding a preachy tone. FEA employs a feminism learned on the road, a worldview tested by the brunt and bullshit of day-after-day, city-after-city misogyny. Coupled with a deep, unshakeable Chicanismo, the message is one that is gaining a voice in punk in recent years — that despite the democracy assumed at a punk show, it's a place often populated by pushing, shoving, white kids.
On the especially stacked first half of the record, the intensely confident Letty Martinez refuses to be silenced, punching through the mix in Spanish and English. Here, her mic isn’t so much an instrument as a cultural weapon. On “Feminazi,” she casts away that alt-right diatribe and clears up the confusion that occurs when only one side of an argument is being heard —“I don’t want bring you down man / I just want to meet in the middle!” Better yet is the hook — “I am a feminist,” repeated in Spanish, French and German. There's that inclusionary, democratic spirit! If only we could find it outside the punk show.