Screaming Females - Ugly - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Screaming Females - Ugly

by Steve Reynolds Rating:7.5 Release Date:2012-04-02

Screaming Females last graced these shores with the excellent Castle Talk in 2010 with its ballsy, muscular riffs and riot grrl-esque delivery from head honco Marissa Paternoster. She continues to wield her creative axe and keep it in the same vein on their new album Ugly.

This time, however, the songs are even less flabby, if that is humanly possible after the stripped bare bones of their predecessor. This time the production rights are granted to a certain Mr Steve Albini and his neurotic attention to detail, especially with the drums. Such finickity attention to minute detail is the most obvious sea-change on this batch of new songs.

Paternoster continues to deliver her helium singing and, following in the footsteps of fellow guitar noiseniks Yuck, is more than happy to plagiarise Dinosaur Jr's dissonant guitar sounds and those distinct power chords that made up a huge chunk of indie guitar in the early 90s. Her confident guitar solos and spikes are pretty prominent and they bristle with oodles of confidence, especially on opening gambit 'It All Means Nothing' with its soaring riffs - a guitar pastiche of most of the output that Mascis wheeled out on Where You Been.

However, Albini 's knob twiddling seems less focussed when it comes to the fuzz and discordant sound than some of of his much more famous productions (In Utero and Surfer Rosa), with a more tailored approach to keeping the sounds clean, neat and tidy. The Jerky guitar and bounce of 'Rotten Apple' is pure pop; while Paternoster's vocal change on 'Red Hand' from goth to quick bombastic quips of fire clearly demonstrate a singer more than comfortable in her own skin.

'Doom 84' has streams of sludge metal a la L7. Patarnoster's angry guitar delivery and unforgiving vocal is the highlight of the album, weighing in at a breathless seven-minutes-plus. There is no doubt her guitar playing is something special and her lack of fear in a male dominated area of musicianship is something not to be taken lightly. This, together with her unashamed, brash singing style really is a breath of fresh air, especially when played to the untrained and uninitiated for the first time.

Ugly does have a lot more highs and lows than Castle Talk and is probably a couple of songs too long to make it as memorable, but it still pisses on most indie guitar acts of the modern era.

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