It's never easy growing up in public, particularly for artists who have made a career out of staying juvenile. Somehow, against all expectations, The Donnas has found a way to follow the path of Jodie Foster instead of Gary Coleman. Together since its four members shared an eighth-grade classroom, the group made its name as a quasi-novelty act, playing Ramones-simple songs about parties, boys, and hissy fits, all with more energy than skill. At some point, however, competence crept into the mix over the course of the band's six albums, bringing ambition with it. Without losing the endearing rawness or moving beyond its party-starting roots, The Donnas quietly (if that word could be considered applicable) moved from guilty pleasure to near-greatness to Gold Medal.
The Donnas broke out of the underground with the 2002 album Spend The Night, essentially an energetic, well-produced recap of what had come before. One of the rare instances in which a band grew more interesting after looking away from punk and back toward classic-rock influences, Gold Medal fills in some of the blanks between the group's trademark three chords. Raucous energy is still The Donnas' default mode, but its members have never tried harder to make hooky pop than they do on the acoustic-guitar-and-piano-tinged title track, and they've never made a better song.
The track also taps into an air of melancholy that the group wears surprisingly well. The old anger still comes to the surface with priceless lines like "you've got one foot in your mouth and one foot in the grave," but it often gives way to disappointment and a sense that the one-time rock cartoons are trying to figure out how to feel once the party has started to go on for too long. It may just be a coincidence that the band's members decided to reveal their real names with Gold Medal, but it makes sense as well. Their most unmistakably human effort to date bodes well for a future that stretches well into, gasp, adulthood.