Published: September, 2007, West Coast Performer Magazine

The Girlfriend Experience
"When In Rome...Do As The Lions"

(Heyday Records)
Produced by Sylvia Massey at Radiostar Studios and Justin Phelps at Hyde Street Studios
Engineered by Rich Veltrop and Justin Phelps
Mastered by John Cuniberti

By Michael Fortes

San Francisco’s The Girlfriend Experience has a few tales to tell and they’re laid out in all their gory detail on the band’s first full-length release, When In Rome ... Do As The Lions. The band’s vocalist, Tobias Hawkins, actually has such a robust, roaring voice that it’s very easy to cling to his melodies and the timbre of his voice while overlooking the words of some of these songs.

The lyrics on the album’s seventh tune, however, are pretty hard to ignore: “I’m told of your scabs / And your foul stink,” Tobias growls, before he frighteningly screams the song’s title in the chorus — “Gonorrhea!” The band can go from a short, intense, punked-out tune like this, to more of a Soundgarden-esque, dirge-like feel on “Death Of the Elephant.” They even go all wacky and experimental with some back-masked guitar and sick, spoken tales of animal abuse over a bass-driven rock groove on the title track. Sample confession: “My friends used to shoot nails into cats with slingshots just ‘cause they wanted to see them bleed.” And on the six-minute “Coke Buddha,” the band flirts with Sonic Youth-like guitar arpeggios and simple drum patterns for a little while before crashing into a hardcore/death metal scream-fest. These are the exceptions that keep the disc quirky and interesting.

Most of the album, however, aims for the musical mainstream of hard rock, echoing mainstays like the Foo Fighters while keeping the vocals heavy and the melodies mostly catchy, but not too precious. This is a band with lots of testosterone and an appreciation for solid riffs and clean production, not to mention shock value.

The Girlfriend Experience "When In Rome...Do As The Lions" album cover