Hello all, so first off I want to preface this by saying that I have only recently started to enjoy the underground rock scene. I’m slowly getting up to speed with my fellow writers here, but still, It’s an exciting genre. Also, because none of you know my writing yet, I like to write things/put genres that aren’t exactly correct but make sense in my head. So yeah there’s that.
With that, Screaming Females are probably one of the more recent bands that are making a huge splash. Especially with their latest album Ugly. The trio from New Jersey, Marissa Paternoster who shreds on both vocals and guitar, with Jarrett Dougherty on drums, and King Mike on bass, already had a great album with Castle Talks. They expanded on their success, and created a fantastic album.
Let me divulge, this 54 minute album is longer than most punk rock albums, however it doesn’t seem like it. This past week I’ve listened to the album extensively, and it always seemed like the run time was half of what they claim, which is a really good thing. Part of the reason is the raucousness of the album in it’s entirety. Opening tracks “It All Means Nothing” and “Rotten Apple” give the electric pulse accustomed to the genre. Yet it’s middle tracks such as “Expire”, with an opening riff that reminds me of an old Toasters track, that create the drive of the album. “Expire”, with a dark, intense, almost tango like samba gives a welcomed change up to the album. Same thing with “Tell Me No”, a fast, hardcore-esque track that feature Paternoster screaming at the top of her lungs within the first 25 seconds. Those tracks give a driving energy unlike any other. Yet sometimes its the softer tracks that can make an album. An often criticized aspect of this album is the middle, with tracks like “Crows Nest”, which has Paternoster sounding almost like Karen O, which is actually endearing rather than a downfall.
Yet perhaps what makes this group is Paternoster herself. Anyone who listens to Screaming Females is immediately enraptured with her voice. As Consequence of Sound put it, “A unique voice can make a big difference on a rock album; esoteric, exciting vocals can make bad albums tolerable, or they can make a good album great.” Which is completely true for Paternoster. Her extremely unique voice is what makes this band let alone the album. Whats so special about this album though is that on this album she lets go of any hesitation and just lets her voice go wherever it wants. Castle Talks and Baby Teeth offer great tracks, but she is stuck in that same Karen O sound like on “Crows Nest”, but for the whole album. She lets it all go in this album and it is just lovely, On top of that, her guitar licks are insane. Stereogum also had a good quote when they said. “Nobody should be as good as she is at singing and playing guitar at the same time, and yet she’s still doing it at New Jersey basement shows with sticky beer-slick floors,”.
Speaking of, seeing them live would be such a thrill, I hope I can.
Overall, the content of Ugly is really not that different from their previous albums. However, the production quality is significantly better. The best part is, the quality of recording is so much better, while the music has tried to be less clean cut than before. More focus is being put on the right instruments at the right times. Which makes a world of a difference.
This album is fantastic. Most people view the dip in the middle of the album as a detriment, though I agree to some level, it’s not so significant that it makes this not a fantastic album.
Here’s some tracks
Screaming Females “Ugly” is off of Don Giovanni Records and was released 4/3.