The Screaming Females Are Fucking Awesome

It is very easy to hate on the myriad social networks that are clogging up our internet these days and, though I partake in a couple, I don’t really defend these social networks from their assailants. Mostly, this is because I believe that a healthy democracy needs people who hate Facebook and Twitter. But every once in a while, something happens on Twitter that makes a compelling case for why such a thing should exist (other than helping people alleviate the tedium of life in a cubicle). I found out about the Screaming Females when Ted Leo tweeted about them. He linked to an article that included a free mp3 of “I Don’t Mind It,” which I downloaded and quite enjoyed. I’m not saying I would never have found out about them if Ted Leo didn’t tweet about them so frequently, but it was nice to see a link that took me directly from his Twitter stream to the Screaming Females’ music. So it is at least a little bit because of Ted Leo and a little bit because of Twitter that I made plans to download Castle Talk on Tuesday when it came out (E-Music also provided me with the Screaming Females’ previous album, Power Move and, to my complete lack of surprise, that album kicks ass as well).

To put it bluntly, Castle Talk is exactly what my ears needed to here this week and the Screaming Females are exactly what rock ‘n’ roll needs right now. New Jersey has had to work very hard to erase the musical stain left on it by the decades long (I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted that the assholes who did “Bad Medicine” would still be making music a decade into the 21st century) success of Bon Jovi, but bands like Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, Titus Andronicus, and the Screaming Females are finally doing just that.

There is only one female in the Screaming Females, but Marissa Paternoster has the strength of a bear with the strength of ten bears – she embodies everything that was awesome about the early Yeah Yeah Yeahs (when Karen O. yelled more. Think “Black Tongue” and “Rich”) and X and that’s just the vocals. Paternoster also plays guitar like the hadron collider plays science. That is, she smashes musical notes together at very high levels of energy. A while back, I was complaining that I didn’t know of any truly awesome electric guitarists that were female. This wasn’t a sexist tirade, mind you, it was a lament. If a massive pussy like John Mayer can become famous for playing electric guitar, I figured there had to be scads of women much better than he. And lo, from the unlikely locale of New Brunswick, New Jersey, came Marissa Paternoster and the Screaming Females. Paternoster is a rip-shit guitarist and I’d like to think that every time she plays a note, John Mayer’s testicles shrink a little. In which case Castle Talk will reduce Mr. Mayer’s balls to a size so insignificant that no credible scientist would surrender a microscope powerful enough to observe them (“You want to borrow my uber-microscope to look at a hack guitar player’s nuts? Get the hell out of here! I’m doing science!”).

So the first thing you might notice on Castle Talk is that the guitar playing is off the charts awesome. Sublime even. Like “Cherub Rock” was sublime. It should be pretty clear to you by now that the guitar playing is the first thing I noticed. The next thing you might notice is that, though the Screaming Females are ostensibly a punk band, there’s plenty of melody to go round (“Wild” and “I Don’t Mind It” come to mind) and, though she is capable of screaming in a very satisfying way (Power Move provides more examples of this), Paternoster is an incredibly strong vocalist (again, the comparisons to Exene Cervenka are more than warranted here) and she delivers lines like “I’m joyfully employed/ and normal” with the kind of authority that most male rock vocalists lack these days.

Lest you get the idea that the Screaming Females are driven solely by Marissa Paternoster’s unassailable awesomeness, it’s worth noting that bassist King Mike and drummer Jarrett Dougherty more than hold up their end of the bargain. King Mike’s bass carries album opener “Laura + Marty” and the album is punctuated by Dougherty’s crashing cymbals and simple, elegant snare work. For as much noise as they make, it might be hard to believe that the Screaming Females are a simple trio, but there you have it. If you’re going to be a rock trio, you had better be able to bring the fucking noise and the Screaming Females bring it all over on Castle Talk.

It’s been a pretty rewarding couple of weeks for me musically because, like the Thermals’ Personal Life, Castle Talk doesn’t just reward repeated listens, it compels them. I get to the end of the album and I just want to hear it again. Given its relative brevity, I can get through about five listens in a fairly short time. And I’m still not tired of it. I spend a lot of time carping about what’s wrong with music on this site, but I do my damnedest to celebrate what’s right. The Screaming Females are very, very right. If you’ve ever loved kickass rock music, you should be listening to Castle Talk right now. It picks up the gauntlet that Sleater-Kinney threw down with The Woods (all the way back in 2006!) and uses it to batter your ears (and your dopamine reward pathway) into submission.

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4 thoughts on “The Screaming Females Are Fucking Awesome

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