Album Review: Screaming Females – All At Once

Screaming Females are back.  For those unaware of the band, they are a three-piece independent rock/punk band from New Jersey.  Made up of Marissa Paternoster (vocals + guitar), Mike Abbate (bass) and Jarrett Dougherty (drums), their new album All At Once is out February 23rd on Don Giovanni Records.

Their previous album Rose Mountain was a success for the group and All At Once looks set to follow suit.  Rose Mountain was produced by Matt Bayles (Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Mastodon), it was his first time working with the band and their first time working with a producer – they wanted someone with the experience to help them make something consistent and professionally finished; streamlining their sound.  They enlisted the help of Bayles again for All At Once, but wanted to try something different – they wanted to put together something with more musical experimentation, pushing their boundaries to try to create something that would evoke the energy of their live performances.

“Glass House” kicks off the album to a roaring start.  The drums come crashing in straight away announcing the start of the album and the start of one of my favourite tracks from Screaming Females. The bass sets a steady rhythm and sludgy undertone, and then Marissa comes in with her signature voice and guitar playing as the track begins to build up a momentum.  It almost reaches a crescendo, then it plateaus with dream-like guitars as Marissa sings softly, lulling you into a false sense of security before the storm hits.  It continually builds energy and momentum and the song rises into crescendo and falls into dreamy trance-like states, rolling in like waves.  I’m told it’s a song about our modern world drowning in technology and social media, about the pressures put on people being in the public eye – especially online.  However, it could be seen to represent a life living with anxiety and the feelings associated with panic attacks pretty well, with a sense of dread and being “impossible to get out”.

The whole album follows on in this style, with the ups and downs of Glass House, with punchy energetic tracks like “Agnes Martin” or “Soft Domination” (also featuring Fugazi’s Brendan Canty on a second set of drums), and some more melodic tunes you can sing along to in your car / shower / wherever, like the pop-punk anti-love hit “I’ll Make You Sorry”.

There are also a couple of quieter tracks to wind down with like the gorgeous minimal and velvety “End Of My Bloodline” or “Deeply” with its lo-fi sound and a constant snare keeping time and somehow breaking up the track at the same time, cutting into the soft melody and restrained vocals with a mesmerising effect.  The track has a wonderful softness and simplicity, highlighted by the organ accompanying it, its ups and downs are in the lyrics “Get high and quiet”, “Get high for entry” in the verses and then falling in the chorus with “I fall so deeply”.

“Black Moon” is another of the singles released from this album and follows on effortlessly.  It’s a song about the planet abandoning humanity, it feels relevant to current political and environmental issues, but also has a good sense of tongue in cheek humour.  This song could be taken as a breakup song and it plays on this idea of a breakup and puts an alternate spin on it.  The lyrics “She needs to love me still, until I’ve had my fill, I try and try to leave, I want to watch you bleed” make it sound like the ending of an abusive relationship, but the abuser is us and the victim leaving us is the planet.

Overall its and enjoyable album, but I’ve liked some of the songs a lot more than others, with the other songs occasionally being skipped on my morning walk to work.  One of the criticisms of this album is how much some of the tracks vary in mood, and some do feel a little repetitive after multiple listens.  Bookending the album in terms of mood are the more energetic, heavier songs you can really party to, and conversely  the quieter tracks to listen to at the end of the day or when your needing a quiet moment, and these are where the record really comes into its own.

Screaming Females are superb live and they have a tour coming up here in the UK in May, check out the dates below:

May 20 – Ramsgate Music Hall – Ramsgate, UK
May 21 – Soup Kitchen – Manchester, UK
May 22 – Broadcast – Glasgow, UK
May 23 – Oslo – London, UK
May 24 – The Louisiana – Bristol, UK
May 25 – The Hope & Ruin – Brighton, UK

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