My First Music Review
(the following was published in my school’s newspaper on April 26th)
I recently joked to a friend that “2012 has been too bleepy bloop and not enough riff riff twang riff bow chicka wow wow.” Onomatopoeias aside, it is true that I have been unsatisfied with the bulk of albums released in the past four months. Where are the guitar anthems? Have musicians made a mass exodus from the rock umbrella in order to make love to their synthesizers? As Carrie Brownstein shrieked in 2005 on the Sleater-Kinney song “Entertain”, “Where’s the black-and-blue?” For those craving a more riotous year, Screaming Females’ Ugly just might satisfy.
Screaming Females is a three-piece band from New Jersey fronted by vocalist and guitarist Marissa Paternoster, whose persistent shredding and vibrato-laden wails make Ugly one of the hardest rocking acclaimed albums of 2012 so far—and should really earn her a place in the Guitar God canon. Imagine a deep-voiced Poly Styrene combined with punk riffs a la Fucked Up’s David Comes to Life.
The first track, “It All Means Nothing” is a stunning opener with a ferocious hook and frustrated lyrics reminiscent of the politically-charged ‘90s feminist punk movement (“I’m on a mission to smash the mirror, get myself off the scale”). The rest of the album delivers psychedelic guitar solos on “Leave it all up to me” and the 7-and-a-half-minute “Doom 84”, melodies that border on surf-rock territory, and yes, screaming. The closing track , “It’s Nice,” is unexpected and pretty. It begins with modest acoustic guitar and uncharacteristically restrained vocals, sounding more like the Velvet Underground’s “After Hours” than the rest of this album’s hour-long punk fest. Until, that is, the song explodes into strings and percussion on the chorus.
Paternoster and company have crafted a refreshingly gritty album with Ugly. They have made a bold statement to the millennium generation that great rock n’ roll is still possible amid the collective “bleep bloop” of contemporary music. Ugly is an album that will blow out your speakers and get your blood hot. And boy, does that ever feel good.
—KT Lindemann, 2012