From the first snare hit, Ugly explodes and continues to be as loud and in your face as a Jersey woman, minus the spray tan and facelift. The New Jersey group masters many diverging genres, yet still finds a way to make it their own brand of loud and ugly punk rock. Yes, the album name drop was intentional.
The LP kicks off with the single, “It All Means Nothing.” The obvious aspect that jumps out first is Marissa Paternoster’s vocals. Her voice is an instrument of its own; a perfect combination of operatic vibrato and snotty Punk. The guitar work is loud and dirty, reminiscent of early 90’s alternative masters like J. Mascis and Billy Corgan. The meandering bass lines interweave perfectly between the frantic drumming and spastic guitar solos.
I definitely hear Dinosaur Jr. in “Rotten Apple” and “Help Me,” but a ton of other bands surface throughout the album as well. The seminal New Wave band Siouxsie and the Banshees can be heard on “Red Hand,” an ode to Black Flag on “Tell Me No,” early grunge on “Expire,” and the album’s strongest track, “Doom 84,” has Black Sabbath written all over it. With beating, low power chords and frantic blues scale meandering, it’s clear Paternoster has taken a lesson from Tony Iommi.
Ugly is not without its missteps though, as the last track is by far the weakest. The ballad “It’s Nice” closes the monster album, and seems like a poor way to end the last 50 minutes of pure chaos. I mean, can you imagine Johnny Rotten singing a ballad? Only Neil Young can get away with singing a ballad about Johnny Rotten, or being a complete badass while playing an acoustic guitar.
Chicago legend and super-producer Steve Albini hasn’t come very far from his Big Black days, and that’s a good thing. His recording technique involves meticulously close-micing the instruments and recording everything live. Albini has an impeccable ability to capture the live energy of some of these monster bands, including his project earlier this year with Cloud Nothings. I notice a few interesting production mishaps, including the failed attempt at building dynamics with a quiet room mic on the opening of “High,” but for the most part, the album captures the band’s energy perfectly.
I like bands that don’t hold back, and the Screaming Females are one of many groups that are loud and proud of it. Rock music has too many bands trying to fit a genre, make a hit single, or please a crowd. The Screaming Females embrace their unique sound and flourish within a culmination of many genres. The prolific band has already toured the world with some killer bands like The Dead Weather and Dinosaur Jr, but has also kicked out five albums. I look forward to bright future for this band, or should I say, ugly future? Album name drop #2.
Can’t Miss: “Doom 84″, “High”, “Expire”
Can’t Hit: “It’s Nice”, “Crow’s Nest”