Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Screaming Females - Ugly LP (Don Giovanni)

Ahhh, blog post avoidance snowball....you are powerless over me now.

I am reminded of the old job at Dairy Queen. My resignation, met with blessings, was sealed with promises to visit as I pursued my dreams of not working. But my heavy heart grew light - a week passed and soon another, quicker yet another, and before long free ice cream sounded like an anxiety attack on a cone.

Time to face the music.

Below is something I have done in the meantime.
Marissa Paternoster’s reputation as “one of the female shredders” proceeds her, but this fact is usually followed by a couple unnecessary details (her diminutive stature and lesbianism). The info makes for interesting copy and gender intrigue is only natural, but it all seems remiss upon hearing Ugly, the fifth album from Paternoster’s Jersey based trio, Screaming Females. The soundbite should be, “She is one of the female shredders—and she can write a song too,” as such a trait is increasingly rare, regardless of gender.

Ugly is 14 agitated pop essentials, relentlessly carved from classic-rock technique and melded back together through the band’s metaphysical urgency. It all calls for a go at holistic listening, at least once, but be forewarned, Ugly is filling: musically, lyrically and most of all, in intensity, recalling PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me. This resemblance is no doubt exacerbated by the band having recorded the album with Steve Albini, but it is pain and passion that are the commonalities to both albums as much as sound.

The first and second songs make this most apparent. “It All Means Nothing” is a power-pop anthem if nihilism ever had one, and the sudden blast of “Rotten Apple” starts with a riff that almost makes you forget it all means nothing. This song also serves up the call and response obligation of any rock record, with Paternoster penning inflections of “I’m a rotten apple” against herself. But the repetition is never in vain. Her distinctly varied vocal palette, racing to lay hooks alternate to her guitar, mobilizes vindication in romance and self-awareness with an agility in phrasing. Jarrett Daugherty’s skillful drumming introduces a bulk of the songs that follow, providing a much needed respite before Paternoster and bassist Mike Abbate unfold the thematic attack at hand. Each song pulls all it can hold from a seemingly bottomless cache of aced stylings: catchy indie riffing, angular skree-form soloing, surf rock, punk rock, and Middle Eastern motifs. This montage is almost hilarious in its breadth, yet it never seems a post-modern disaster in the moment. Perhaps that is authenticity, perhaps it is the band’s united front. Ugly is a full record, but there is no excess. The real fight is elsewhere. It is a revenge record in the form of power-pop from New Jersey, reading like it has something to prove.
-Elizabeth Murphy

from Agit Reader