Like many a cultural player these days, Detroit's Demolition Doll Rods are polarizing.
Throughout the course of their 13-year career which has been spent mostly touring and sleeping in the same Econoline van, on a decidedly non-rock 'n roll diet that neglects meat, drugs and alcohol they have had big supporters (Iggy Pop once called them the best band in Detroit) and big detractors (some, usually other bands, have publicly wished the Doll Rods would just quit).
No matter what your stance, their live show is an undeniable spectacle. The group wears goofy, homemade outfits that barely subdue mammary glands and genitals. Their music embodies all the sleaze, grease and spirit of Detroit's rich musical past: the soul of Motown, the attitude of the Stooges and MC5, the absurdity of Parliament.
Their principal songwriter, Margaret Doll Rod, has a blazing, soulful rasp of a voice that guides thumping, stripped-down songs down roads that wouldn't be misunderstood on the inside of a horny teenager's locker. Danny Doll Rod's more androgynous persona complements Margaret's with catchy, fuzzed-out riffs. Thumper, the drummer, pins them down with a throbbing, tribal beat.
"Even though we've been doing this forever, somebody's mouth is always hanging down," says Margaret Doll Rod of the live show. "It's like an amusement park ride; it's just like, womp it just falls. And [concertgoers] just stand there with their eyes bugging out till, I'd say, mid part of the show, and then they start bouncing up and down a little bit ... even the most conservative people usually end up doing a little, either a little bounce or a little ass shake, or a little something happens. And they try, they really try hard not to. But they can't [resist moving]."
The Doll Rods, Margaret argues, have always tried to hark back to the original spirit of rock 'n roll, which is an act of setting the body free. And it's hard to dismiss her claim that most of today's indie rock crowds have this in common: "arms crossed, legs completely straight, and the only movement you see is from the stage to the bar."
But there remains the main complaint: The Doll Rods are nothing more than a sex show, selling tickets with their skin.
"People say that we're selling sex by the way that we dress," Margaret adds. "And we're not we're making fun. Like with Parliament Funkadelic, nobody ever accused them because they were wearing a diaper of trying to sell sex. We're just saying, "Hey, we're doing what we want to do.'"
If you can see the Doll Rods for what they are veteran rockers and vegetarian pranksters with an old-school view of free love you'll probably start shaking your ass right along with them.
"I think that music is inspiration to make you move," says Margaret. "And I think that you start moving and you enjoy life. And some people [when rock 'n roll was new], they couldn't really enjoy life, they had a life that wasn't theirs, that wasn't free. They were doing something for somebody else. ... I think that not many people [even now], are they really doing what they really want to do? Or are they just a slave to a paycheck and a way of life? And I think that the Doll Rods are expressing more than this that you can have more than this, if you just dream and try. And you can be free to live a life that you want to live."
Demolition Doll Rods with The Swindlers, Gata Negra and Babihed
Larimer Lounge,2721 Larimer St., Denver
Tuesday, May 23, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $8, 21-plus; call 303/291-1007 for more info.