As in any field of endeavor, certain cliches arise around women in music. If they're singing rock 'n' roll, those stereotypes include: tuff chick/wild woman out of control, naif/waif, tortured poet/grad student. Kali Holloway, frontwoman for New York City-based combo the Affair, fortunately falls into none of these easy markers. While her clear, commanding, emotion-laden voice occasionally evokes other singers Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker, Blondie's Deborah Harry circa 1976, Martha Reeves of Martha & the Vandellas she sounds like an all-grown-up, been-around-the-block woman who doesn't confuse brattiness with self-assurance and passion. The rest of the Affair match her zeal every step of the way, with drums cracking like fireworks exploding in metal trash cans, distorted 1960s garage-band organ, and lean, crunching guitars (with no superfluous soloing). Yes to You's songs are two- and three-minute marvels of economic construction and sharply memorable punk-pop melodic hooks. Pick-to-click hit: "Anything But Disco (You Ruined My Life)" imagine the Shangri-Las strutting in front of a surly Polyphonic Spree. Just when I think this rock 'n' roll stuff has run its course and/or sunken to self-parody, along come bands like the Affair to show there's still plenty of vitality in the old beast. Mark Keresman
The Affair performs on Friday, Feb. 9, at Bottom of the Hill at 10 p.m. Admission is $8-10; call 621-4455 or visit www.bottomofthehill.com for more info.