Review: Reno’s Roxxy Collie spreads its wings with ‘Altricial’

Tahoe Onstage

Roxxy Collie’s CD release performance for “Altricial” was Sept. 22 at St. James Infirmary.
Shaun Astor / Tahoe Onstage

The first song on Roxxy Collie’s first album makes clear this is hardly an ordinary fledgling band. The musicianship is exquisite, the vocals extraordinary and the production flawless and crisp. But moreover, it’s delivered with stories that provide intrigue and surprise, inspiring a listener’s close attention and desire for interpretation. It’s the kind of record that can be placed on repeat and never sound the same. Something new is discovered with each play.

Rozzy Collie“The Play I Wrote For You” opens with crickets chirping alongside warm keyboard tones, setting a mood of a summer evening. With a comfortable cadence and rhythm, the singer gently draws us into the landscape like a myna bird cooing minor notes. Suddenly, the scene is startled by a loud, distorted electric guitar, as if a stellar jay has screeched its entry.

The quintet from Reno was named for Roxie Collie Laybourne, a forensic ornithologist whose study of bird strikes on aircraft led to safety improvements in mid-20th century. When they perform, the players don beaked Venetian masks, and the singer – Margy Ford — wears lavish, plumaged headwear. The name of the album is “Altricial,” which means a newly hatched bird that is capable of surviving on its own.

Can a band be noted for a pop sensibility when there are occasional outbursts of profanity? Punk sensibility is a better description.

The album’s third song, “Pop Songs,” concludes with:

“I’ve got to walk away from all of you,
I’m dizzy and I’m sick; from all your vile antagonism and toxic politics.
I’m not your sounding board, don’t go thinking I’m the choir, and you can use me for hire.
Just mainly cover songs, in a dirty fucking shithole, only makes it that much worse.”

Now that Roxxy Collie has your attention, its next song is “Hang Me,” which has a Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers” style introduction. There’s a retro flavor throughout the record, and Ford’s vocals range from something like a brazen Chrissie Hynde on the Pretenders’ epipynomous 1980 debut or the dark storytelling Jenny Lewis on 2008’s “Acid Tongue.” And edgy early Blondie is undeniable, too. The guitar has pop hooks, like Weezer. The lyrics are like Edgar Allan Poe.

If Roxxy Collie is celebrating an influence it would be Ween. It covers a woman’s tale in “Baby Bitch.” Ween created an esoteric, cult-like legion of fans. With a penchant for intimate poetry, Roxxy Collie can have a like-minded following.

Ask 12 listeners to pick a favorite song from “Altricial,” and you might get 12 answers. Each is unique and superb. The pick here is the penultimate tune, “Stranglevine.” Singer Margy Ford is an “ever defiant heroine,” indeed, and Roxxy Collie is spreading its wings.

— Tim Parsons

  • Roxxy Collie

    Margy Ford, vocals; Jon Cornell, keyboards; Veronica Klinger, bass; Nick Ramirez, drums; Steve Barron, guitar; Album recorded, mixed and mastered by Rick Spagnola, Dogwood Studios

    Roxxie CollieMargy Ford is the vocalist for Roxxy Collie.
    Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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