Dee's so fine

The girl-group delights of the Deelinquents
By JONATHAN DONALDSON  |  March 2, 2010

NO TIME LIKE THE PAST Jen D'Angora has girl-group roots as deep as her two-tone hair, with proto-punk singers like the Shangri-Las seated high in her pantheon.

Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents co-founders Jen D'Angora (the Dents, the Downbeat 5) and Ed Valauskas (Gravel Pit, the Gentlemen) won't come right out and say that they had ambitions of ever forming a '60s-style girl group — they won't even come out and say they're married. Actually, for a group with eight members and matching outfits and choreography, Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents (who play T.T. the Bear's this Friday) have emerged as more of a delightful surprise than a labor of love. Valauskas recalls one night about a year and a half ago when the inspiration was found as easily as a coin in the couch cushions. "Jen says, 'I have these two new songs, and they are not really right for the Downbeat 5. They are not quite as rock, not garage-y at all.' She played them for me on the couch, and I said, 'Wow this is fucking great!' " One of those songs was "Keeping Time," a Stevie Wonder "Uptight"-style stomper where "Jenny Dee" reminds her man that if he wants to keep her love, he better start keeping time — both on his watch and on the dance floor.

But this cloudburst of chiffon dresses and sha-la-las didn't spontaneously erupt with that one song. Valauskas had grown up fascinated with the bass playing of Motown session king James Jamerson (author of world-devouring bass lines like those in the Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On"). D'Angora has girl-group roots as deep as her two-tone hair, with proto-punk singers like the Shangri-Las (those audacious white girls from Queens) and Phil Spector hitmakers Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry ("Be My Baby") seated high in her pantheon. And all the Deelinquents share the girl-group ethos — from the coiffures to the talking interludes to the melodramatic drum fills. "They knew what they were getting into," jokes D'Angora about her bandmates.

After they'd put their first demo together, Valauskas thought of a group — including guitarists Tony Goddess (Papas Fritas, the Rudds) and Eric Salt, keyboardist Phil Aiken, and drummer Eric Anderson — with whom he'd recently done a Nick Lowe tribute. Enthusiasm took over, and soon the Deelinquents were buttoning down songs, finding a new audience with young and old crowds, and landing shows at a faster rate than any of their former bands.

This month, they'll head to Texas for a series of off-festival SxSW shows in support of their debut, Keeping Time (Q-Dee). Although the Deelinquents' pastiches don't stray far from their sources, their faithful '60s-style productions (via Eli "Paperboy" Reed producer Matt Beaudoin) are not without originality. Album opener "Big Ol' Heart" cranks an adventurous melody against an Ike & Tina workout; "Love in Ruins" borrows the atmosphere of the Ronettes' "Walking in the Rain" and throws in a fugue-like vocal tag; even the Flamin' Groovies' "Shake Some Action" (the album's sole cover) is dressed up as the Four Tops' "Sugar Pie Honey Bunch." "If we're gonna do it, let's do it," says D'Angora. "Nobody's getting any younger."

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