TUESDAY, APRIL 10, 2012 |
Posted by: Malcolm Donaldson
I think the best way to explain this album is by saying its awesome, but I'll go into a bit more detail than that. Screaming Females dont hide behind anything on Ugly, their fifth full-length. The album focuses in on Marissa Paternosters vocals and guitar, King Mike on bass and Jarrett Dougherty on drums, and stays with those core elements from start to finish. That may not sound like a recipe for success-- very few bands could keep it interesting with so little instrumental variation-- but Screaming Females make it seem effortless. The trio plays together with a kind of expert communication that could only come from years upon years of incessant touring, and somehow communicate this urgency through the recording process as well. Ugly is an album that doesnt have a single hole in it; you keep waiting for the filler to come, but each song is there with ass-kicking purpose.
Ugly comes out swinging with two of the best tracks of the year so far, It All Means Nothing and Rotten Apple. Neither song wastes a second as Paternoster proves to be one of the rawest, heaviest guitarists around. Her solos on tracks like Doom 84 sound like something out of Guitar Hero if J Mascis designed the game. Her gift of ripping through solos while screaming in a gritty demonic growl should be cherished, and shoved in the face of anyone who thinks that tiny women with bob haircuts cant shred your face off. King Mikes heavy bass lines are an underestimated part of this band. He knows exactly where to play and when to hold off. He can match Marissas guitar work whenever he wants, but does so only when it's necessary. Jarrett, also the bands manager, holds the band together at the seams both on stage and off. He doesnt get wrapped up in putting a drum fill in every four bars. Hes a very talented drummer with severe punk motivation. The balance clarifies Screaming Females' pure rock with no frills.
Screaming Females spend most of Ugly in their comfort zone, building on their previous work with helping hand, producer Steve Albini. Then, out of nowhere, comes the track Its Nice which has a few finger picked notes from Paternoster, big backing strings and a quiet, tender version of her monstrous howl. Even in the beautiful moments of this record-- and this is by far the most beautiful track of Screaming Females career-- emotions are put in the no-nonsense SF style. She sings, The biggest joke/ the brightest smile/ I feel just like a little child/ and its nice. By the end of Ugly "it's nice" feels like a simple understatement--but for Screaming Females, that's part of what makes them unique.