By Matt Boyd
If rock in the 90s was a false return to the misperceived glamour of 70s form as Mike Watt and Eddie Vedder warned us in the 94 tune “Against the 70s,” we should be doubly invested in defending ourselves against the return of 90s. No point in thinking about that now, with all the young dudes' closets already saturated with flannels whose neon colors seem to evoke a Bizarro-version of WKRP in Cincinnatti's Andy Travis. Our trip back to birth control glasses and beards has accelerated, and the music has reluctantly only recently followed suit. The 90s and guitars are back-at least for the next five minutes.
Watt's lyrics warned “It's not reality, just someone else's sentimentality… / It won't work for you… / Baby boomers selling you rumors of their history / Forcing youth away from the truth of what's real today.” Today's returns to the forms of yesterday pile atop one another so quickly and in such a desperate succession of bids for passing attention it is obvious that admonishments like this aren't really a consideration.
Are we really just headbands, glands, and it-bands?
Screaming Females' Power Move, out April 14 on Don Giovanni Records, gives us reason to believe that, fuck no, we're not.
2007 saw the largest baby boom in the history of the United States. This sandwiches many of us like another Lost Generation between the voices of two megalithic peer groups. Even thinking how quickly and apolitically we already cycle today between fads in which we are only lightly personally invested, and even with a new crop of Boomers in the wings ready to frivolously grind culture into meal, I am still filled with optimism to hear a band like this one belting out songs to tear off my brainpan. I feel a glimmer of hope almost as warm as the tones coming from Paternoster's guitar.
When a long-past-DIY Mike Watt penned “Against the 70s,” he had a whole pre-file-sharing-decline music industry roster of “it guys” at his disposal-he had the original 90s big-boy voice on vox and Dave Grohl on drums, for Christ's sake. (Scott Stapp thanks you for the big-boy voice, Eddie Vedder.) Screaming Females didn't need any of that to make this indelible mark of an album- just determination, talent, and raw energy.
Sure, Screaming Females' rhythm section is cribbed from Ted Nugent-just listen to that “Stranglehold” breakdown in the middle of “Lights Out”. Yes, their Rat-pedal-processed guitar work invokes Grand Funk Railroad, Mountain, and Cream. Lead lady Marissa Paternoster is a pastiche of Natalie Merchant looks and Black Sabbath hooks. The thing is, though, this band is not a hackneyed genre act. They've played over 300 shows nationwide based solely on a love for doing what they do well. That comes through on their record.
Their sustained shred and swagger, Paternoster's punk rock wail that transforms into a robust anthemic instrument one second to the next, these collect into an irresistible riposte to the Guess Who's 1970 single “American Woman,” another band whose guitars the Females would seem to owe so much to: the whole package is a powerful twist on the 70s dude rock sound in general. This is music that has elements from but is definitely not just a return to either the 70s or the 90s. This is something unique. This is something vibrant. The Screaming Females have at the helm one of the hardest working axe-men in rock, and she roars, too. No one is going to tell them to get away.