A More Adult Scream
In the state of popular music that we are currently in, filled with trap snares and synths, the twirling trash guitar poundings that comprise the opening statement of Screaming Females new album, All At Once, is heard loud and clear. One wouldn’t expect to hear such a sound these days, but the familiarity more than cleanses the palette.
As the first song “Glass House” progresses, it needs…something. An extra oomph to warrant such a well-trodden sound. It’s as soon as lead singer Marissa Paternoster comes barreling through the wall of sound with her towering war calls that makes one think, “oh right, that’s what makes this kind of music interesting: a really, really good singer.” No more convincing is needed once the chorus hits. The thought, “this song could soundtrack an action sequence,” is said so often these days, that anything slightly rock-anthem leaning qualifies. But the strength of the harrowing, taunting melody with Paternoster’s ability to warp syllables into cascading dive bombs, deserves to play over a badass superheroine getting ready for her revenge. Same goes for the following “Black Moon” and “I’ll Make You Sorry,” which balance catchy hooks with a well-executed, more post-punk style.
Even when the songs start to slow down, any steam that is lost is well forgiven simply due to the pure listenable quality of Paternoster’s vocals. The magic of the “Glass House” chorus is always on the mind during the slower songs like the prom slow dance song ”Deeply.” The songs “Agnes Martin” and “Bird in Space” further this lower energy trend by going more “Freebird” rock regal-ness rather than in-your-face. And then, “Fantasy Lens” kicks things back into high gear. Instead of a darkness this time, though, there’s a jangly sense of wonder. Females don’t just need to scream angrily, you know. And that’s really the lesson of All At Once.
Everyone expects female-led rock to be such an angry nose-turned up confrontation. But the closer, “Step Outside,” gives off quite the opposite effect. In the lyrics, Paternoster acknowledges that it’s not safe to step outside, especially these days, but simply the act of being yourself in a world that isn’t always friendly can be a protest of its own. That being said, one more spooky anarchy anthem like “Glass House” wouldn’t have hurt. But the restraint and maturity that Screaming Females exhibits on All At Once is to be admired in this age of nonstop screaming.