Sunday, April 8, 2012

Screaming Females, Ugly, 2012

Sunday Run Album Review 

For all my supposed open-mindedness when it comes to music, I still love guitar-based rock, and J Mascis is one of my favorite guitar players.  He combines the string bends and multiple guitar solos of classic rock, the agression of hardcore, the loudness and distortion of shoegaze, and the jangle of minde pop in both his work with Dinosaur Jr. and in his solo work.  In an interview with The Guardian last year Mascis cited Screaming Females' guitarist and lead vocalist, Marissa Paternoster, as one of "the guitarists you really must hear."

I felt the same way after seeing New Brunswick, NJ's Screaming Females open for Titus Andronicus back in March.  Both their skill and style impressed me for many of the same reasons that I've always liked Mascis.  I've been listening to Ugly all week, including during a run on the day of its release.  If I can find time between exploring the area around Albuquerque, NM and stuffing my face with food and drink while on vacation with family and friends, I promise I'll take them out for a run with me today.

On Ugly, Screaming Females worked with legendary producer Steve Albini.  Albini produced one of my other favorite albums of 2012, Attack on Memory by Cloud Nothings, along with stone classics like Surfer Rosa, In Utero, and Rid of Me.  The collaboration works well here.

Jarrett Dougherty's drums lead right into Paternoster's guitar on album opener, "It All Means Nothing."  Right away, you can hear the influences of 80's and 90's guitar rock like Dinosaur Jr. and Sleater-Kinney.  Paternoster has a powerful voice and she uses it to sneer and wail her way through the song to great effect.  The rest of the album never feels overlong at its 53 minute running time.  That's due, in large part, to that guitar and that voice.

As much as Paternoster defines the band's sound, the rhythm section of Dougherty and King Mike on bass can't be overlooked, especially on songs like "Red Hand," "Tell Me No," and "Something Ugly."  And as much as the Screaming Females' sound is rooted in punk and hard rock, they still produce some excellent hooks on songs like "Rotten Apple" and "Expire."

Ugly could be a breakout record for this New Jersey band.  It's a hard rocker, filled with blistering guitar solos.  Screaming Females are way better musically than any band calling themselves "punk" has a right to be, and they're fronted by a true rock star.

Here's the hilarious, disturbing, disturbingly hilarious video for "It All Means Nothing."

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