Release Date: Sep 14, 10
While I love reading about how “done” Sammi and Ronnie of Jersey Shore are, I wish people spent more of their energy focusing on the legitimately awesome things that come out of New Jersey. Specifically, Screaming Females. This punk trio is, well…everything a punk trio should be. One bitchin’ lady vocalist/guitarist + two boys on drums and bass + a commitment to playing basement shows in New Brunswick to circumvent 21 and over clubs = full-throttle perfection.
OK, perfection is taking it a bit far. It wouldn’t be interesting if it were perfect, right? Marissa Paternoster is amazing to listen to 95% of the time, but her voice can tend to veer toward the drone-zone. But the riot grrl in me doesn’t really care about that tiny 5%. I’m just happy that I’ve got a new album from a girl-fronted band whose gritty sound rivals Titus Andronicus.
The opening track “Laura & Marty” starts out roughly with a feedback-heavy guitar and drums, but calms down a bit just in time for Paternoster’s vocals to chime in. For most of the tracks on the album, she strikes an excellent balance between embodying the band’s moniker and actually hitting recognizable notes that one can sing along with. While I don’t always associate the basement punk aesthetic with catchy music, Paternoster’s hypnotic refrain of “Laura and Marty went to a party” hints at the potential for addictive hooks on the rest of the album.
Cue “I Don’t Mind It.” First off, it’s one of my more favorite songs on the album. The guitars and drums sound a little cleaner here, but not over-produced. Paternoster is the definite star here, though. Her voice goes through so many different modulations that her otherwise simple lyrics become much more interesting. The track that immediately follows, “Boss,” is an exercise in restraint. The chorus is powerful, but otherwise, the instrumentation (including the vocals) is quite toned down. However, that doesn’t affect the trio’s energy at all. You can feel the tension in this song, so it keeps it from becoming a truly relaxed track.
I applaud them for being able to show different sides rather than just constantly playing loud and fast. “Wild”—in addition to just being a good song—is another solid example of their ability to harness their energy and then release it every so often over the course of a track. When Paternoster lets everything go, she completely brings a song to life. That being said, when she holds back a little too much, like on the track “Sheep”, she can make a song take a turn for the worse. The track is alright, but her monotone delivery of the chorus “You count sheep with anyone/yeah, anyone will do” sounds defeated at best. It doesn’t help that the band matches her tempo and tone, emphasizing the boring nature of the line. Sure, that’s a depressing lyric, but there may be more interesting ways to convey it.
Besides for a few minor, less-than-exciting moments, this is an entertaining album that highlights Screaming Females’ ability to produce nuanced punk music that still bears its teeth every third song or so. Whether you hear it in a basement show or through a pair of headphones, you’ll want to pay close attention to what Castle Talk has to say.