Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Album Review: Screaming Females - All At Once

Screaming Females
All At Once
****and1/2 out of *****

On Screaming Females last release, Rose Mountain, the band made a giant leap forward. While always a barn burning live act, the New Brunswick, NJ trios albums were mere fodder for the stage until Rose Mountain proved the band had the song writing chops and studio know how to evolve into a must hear for anyone who likes rock music.

It was so confident it didn't feel like a transitional work, but rather an announcement of their realized skills. Now on their follow up, All At Once, that feeling of searching/transition has arrived but it is just as exciting and another positive expansion of their sound. Rose Mountain was direct (lyrically musical) and now All At Once is more languid/fluid taking it's time to germinate. The release has toned down the harsher edges of the group, infused pop elements experimenting with softer textures and sounds while also stretching out and jamming. The long (for a 2018 punk based record) also juxtaposes both extremes of the band and catches them winningly searching for their full musical sound.

All At Once gains confidence as it progresses and rewards the listener with multiple listens; a true grower for 2018.

"I'll Make You Sorry" is a very good song, bordering on great with defiant lyrics about broken love and revenge and the most pop sounding production the group have attempted but also sticks around too long at 4:11 to make a huge dent. Had the band blazed out with the guitar solo at 3:10 or so, the punchy effort would be pure ear candy. 

That said the extra minute doesn't do any harm and even the not so memorable tracks here are still an interesting listen. "Dirt" plays with rhythm of Mike Abbate's bass and Jared Dougherty's drums and brief glimpses of oddball-ness, while the dramatic "Deeply" marches around big hits and keyboards never reaching the climax hinted at. Marissa Paternosters (should be) world famous guitar also drops out for "End of My Bloodline" as the band hints at more freaky experimentation.

"Agnes Martin" will rip on stage but Paternoster's guitar is toned down a touch here with production while "Soft Domination" fully dives into pop rock and works well with guest Brandon Canty from Fugazi helping out drums. Interesting that a band who has a ton in common with the DIY punk gods choose to have Canty join on their least Fugazi sounding song ever. Well, the simply beautiful "Bird In Space" may also contend for that title as it is rolls out a gorgeously groovy beat and pristine solo work while staying in FM rock radio land behind Paternosters layers of vocals which range all over; a stunning track.

The strutting "My Body" also feels like it could have been a radio staple in a far away world with it's swaggering rising chorus around disaffected lyrics revolving around art, perception and projected feelings, wanting to be burned in the end. Paternosters lyrics throughout are about wrong conceptions, convoluted relationships feelings and turning inward to deal with issues; a unique voice in rock music today. Where Rose Mountain was focused lyrically on Paternosters persistent medical issues and her frustration with health care as a whole, here she searches along with the various music supporting her words.

The albums centerpiece "Chamber For Sleep I" and "Chamber For Sleep II" both contain a grooving upbeat sunshine pop vibe juxtaposed with Paternosters vengeful lyrics as bongos, keyboards, and echoing vocals all get toyed with. All of this experimentation seeps into the songs pores before the guitar work tries to arrive with the help of warbling effects, feedback and production augmentation. Part II's rich bass and dynamite conclusion are exhilarating and the suite itself is a microcosm of the album; the band is confident in who they are and exploring where they can go.

This is not to say all of the punk roots have been forsaken, "Black Moon", "Glass House" and "Fantasy Lens" are all powerful attacks that will scratch that itch, and blazing closer "Step Outside" is a throwback to the old Scre-male style of riff assaults with fuzz laden six string, pumping bass and motoring drum work but All At Once is more about the future.

The trio is now more than ever determined to follow their own path and that is the most exciting aspect of All At Once, there is no longer a known playbook for this excellent trio.
RtBE absolutely LOVE this band, support the group, buy the album, stream it on bandcamp, peep some video below:

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