If "grow up" are words of advice you'd rather hear the Donnas shout than actually follow, approach "Gold Medal" with caution. Six albums along, the veteran and inveterate party girls are beginning to show their age.
Clocking in at a scant 34 minutes, "Gold Medal" indicates that the Bay Area punk-pop quartet is maturing in ways that rarely become a group so enamored of the Ramones. The songs are more diverse than usual, the production by Butch Walker (Avril Lavigne) is expertly calibrated, and the combination of Allison Robertson's '70s-rooted Kiss-meets-AC/DC guitar work and Brett Anderson's similarly emphasized vocals sounds, well, there's no avoiding the word: mainstream.
Of course, while trying to capitalize on the success of their major-label debut, 2002's "Spend the Night," with a vibrant follow-up, the Donnas haven't lost sight of the reason they've lasted as long as they have. There's no shortage of girl-power punch lines here, as the mood shifts from the willful ("I know where you live / And I wanna live there too," obsesses Anderson on the lead-off track, "I Don't Want to Know") to the lacerating (a dead-end encounter is summed up on "It's So Hard" thusly: "Don't mind if you don't remember this, baby, cause I won't"). In the end, though, the music on "Gold Medal" is far more notable for its pop ambitions than its punkish attitude.
-- Mike Joyce
Appearing Wednesday at the 9:30 club. * To hear a free Sound Bite from the Donnas, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8131. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)