Screaming Females – Chalk Tape

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Chalk Tape is Screaming Females’ hot-on-the-heels follow-up E.P. to last year’s Steve Albini-engineered album Ugly. It is currently a limited edition cassette-only release, available exclusively at the Don Giovanni label showcase on Feb. 9 at Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Though a re-release of most of these tracks on a less cool but more accessible format is inevitable, tri-state hipsters who miss this show will, tragically, never tell their grandchildren about it.

According to the band’s blog, the approach they took in creating Chalk Tape was a total departure from their normal recording and writing habits. While previously they would “…get together and jam until something interesting happens” (and it always did), this time they wrote a list of musical ideas on a chalkboard that were quickly “attacked” (in vocalist and guitarist Marissa Paternoster’s own words) and recorded in their rehearsal space (aka “Grandma’s Basement”) with zero rewrites. To say that the experiment worked is like saying that James Dean was cool. The sonic variety, urgency, and vitality in these recordings embodies the essence of what the word “punk” has come to mean. It’s more of an attitude than a sound, and Screaming Females have got it to burn.

This band could easily get by solely on Paternoster’s raw, courageous vocals and headlong guitar abuse. But they also give us gorgeously eccentric lyrics, fierce energy, an unbridled willingness to explore, and an insistence on doing only what they want only when they want to. Paternoster and bass player King Mike have jammed since high school, and it seems pretty clear that Screaming Females will always be a Band, not a constructed posse of instrumentalists. There must be something powerful in the water in their native New Brunswick, N.J. that transforms ordinary humans into seething demons of ultimate rock credibility.

From the pleasing and melodic guitar riffage of “Poison Arrow” to the brutal and jolting vocal assault of “Wrecking Ball”, Chalk Tape is eclectic. But the band manages deftly, despite the wide variety, to construct a satisfyingly cohesive, original and very compelling block of sound. You could dig for and identify influences, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone else who sounds like this.

4/5 bars
4 / 5 bars

Guest post by Sara C.

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