Acoustic Sounds

The Donnas

American Teenage Rock 'n' Roll Machine



The Donnas

Label: Real Gone Music

Produced By: Tom Yates, The Donnas & Darin Raffaelli

Engineered By: Tom Yates

Mastered By: Mike Milchner (Sonic Vision)

Lacquers Cut By: Michael Fanos (Well Made Music)

By: Dylan Peggin

October 5th, 2023



The Donnas Paved Their Destiny With “American Teenage Rock ‘n’ Roll Machine”

The second album from Palo Alto’s female rockers gets reissued

The DonnasWhile hip-hop and boy bands dominated the musical climate of the millennium, The Donnas rekindled the aesthetics of old-fashioned rock and roll. Vocalist Brett Anderson, guitarist Allison Robertson, bassist Maya Ford, and drummer Torry Castellano joined forces in 1993 and formed the punk band Ragady Anne, later rechristened as The Electrocutes. Two years later, The Donnas emerged as an avenue for the girls to embrace a garage rock sound that didn’t deter from their hardcore origins. To distinguish this outfit, each member took on the “Donna” moniker followed by the first initial of their last names (Brett = Donna A et al). Upon the release of their self-titled debut album and a brief tour of Japan in 1997, The Donnas signed with Lookout Records, and this was during their senior year of high school! In hindsight, The Donnas became the vehicle destined to take off to stratospheric heights.

Released in 1998, American Teenage Rock ‘n’ Roll Machine was The Donnas’ sophomore effort and marked the next step in their musical evolution. Songs about teenage runaways and smoking cheeba on their debut bore a sound adjacent to the one heard on the Ramones’ debut album, packed with three chords and rapid-fire intensity. With this album, the band paid homage to the sound of 70s/80s glam rock and hair metal, particularly bands like KISS and Mötley Crüe. Songs like “Rock ‘n’ Roll Machine,” “Leather on Leather,” and “Speed Demon” come across strong with big chords fed through a Marshall amplifier. A notable highlight is the song “You Make Me Hot,” which sounds like a Joan Jett-fronted Runaways classic. One of The Donnas’ musical trademarks is choruses full of gang vocals, to which plenty appear on “Checkin’ It Out” and “Looking for Blood.” The lyrics are far from Shakespearean but still downright fun and to the point as the music.

One thing to consider about the production side of American Teenage Rock ‘n’ Roll Machine is that while it is a sonic upgrade to the band’s debut, it is far from a hi-fi recording and retains a lo-fi aesthetic. The album has a “roomy” sound due to the recording studio residing within a warehouse, which gives it a lively atmosphere. One of the album’s co-producers, studio owner/engineer Tom Yates, provides some depth to The Donnas’ sound by double-tracking Allison Robertson’s rhythm guitar parts, creating a rich wall of crunching power chords. Even though Brett Anderson’s vocals are recorded dry without any use of effects, double-tracking them makes them come across more potently. Bassist Maya Ford is a pocket player that doesn’t stray too far from the root of Allison’s chords, providing the glue that holds the arrangements together. However, Torry Castellano’s kickdrum provides the "oomph" to the bottom end. 

The demand for The Donnas on vinyl is immense, with scarce original pressings fetching three figures in today's market. In 2020, Real Gone Music waved the flag with reissues of the band’s two Atlantic albums, Spend the Night and Gold Medal. Coming fresh off the heels of a Record Store Day release consisting of early singles, Real Gone Music has finally obtained the rights to the band’s Lookout catalog, which includes American Teenage Rock ‘n’ Roll Machine

The hype sticker cleverly states, “remastered for vinyl from the original master.” It’s a bold indicator that there is a digital chain with this pressing as opposed to the ¼” master tape used for the debut’s reissue, yet somehow that tape was running at a slightly slower speed! Michael Fanos of Well Made Music translates Mike Milchner’s digital master onto vinyl masterfully with plenty of punch. Gotta Groove Records did a knockout job pressing up a quiet slab of standard-weight vinyl. Coupled with the record housed within an audiophile-grade rice paper inner sleeve, it lives up to its “mark of high quality.” The 1998 calendar featured in the original pressing is replicated, with the flipside featuring commentary from Brett, Allison, and Maya, providing some testimonials from the time. The variant collectors will have a field day snagging this album up in several colors from various retailers, my copy being the Zia Records exclusive on black strawberry swirl vinyl limited to 300 copies. 

Clocking in at just under 25 minutes, American Teenage Rock ‘n’ Roll Machine is an album that doesn’t overstay its welcome yet leaves the listener wanting more. This reissue allows old listeners to revisit one of their finest albums and new listeners to catch on to a band that is, to this day, off the radar for most people. The sound explored on this album conveys the simplicity of their early punk roots, delivered with a more edgy attitude. The Donnas would embrace this sound further on their next couple of albums which led to them getting signed to Atlantic Records in 2001, but that’s another story!

Music Specifications

Catalog No: RGM-1560

Pressing Plant: Gotta Groove Records

Speed/RPM: 33 1/3

Weight: 120 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Presentation: Single LP


  • 2023-10-05 11:42:49 PM

    AO wrote:

    The Donnas! Heck yeah. It's nice to see them getting some coverage here. Personally, I'm waiting for "Get Skin Tight" reissue.

    • 2023-10-06 06:40:59 AM

      tim davis wrote:

      I just visited the Real Gone website. They are now taking preorders for "Get Skin Tight" as well as "Turn 21" I ordered up both seperately from the currently available titles so's they'll ship sooner than later.

  • 2023-10-06 06:13:59 AM

    tim davis wrote:

    Haihull Yeah!! Love me some Donnas. I had the priviledge of seeing 'em live just once in Winston Salem, NC. When the drummer broke a stick on the 1st song I knew they "did not come to fuck around". I gotta go get this reissue with all speed.