Guitar driven rock music has gone from being one of the main arteries of the cultural music landscape to being something more like the appendix- it's there, but its function and necessity have been long since forgotten. It's sorta not 'important' anymore. And it's not even solely in the mainstream, radio music sense that rock and the various genres under its umbrella have fallen off- even in the underground, indie scenes, the well of rock music is mostly dry, when it comes to pushing the envelope, to blazing the trail ahead and making music that feels fresh. There are some great groups out there that are guitar heavy, like "King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard" (real name), but they're bands whose sound is throwback focused, is aping older musical styles and ideas. Guitar music is at a bit of a stand still.
And there's nothing necessarily wrong with that, either. Guitar music has long dominated the music landscape, has had an integral place every decade. Rock music can take a break, can let other styles of music have their time to shine. And it's no big secret that hip hop and rap are shining as genres perhaps now more than ever, have come to rule the roost, both in the mainstream and the underground. This new prominence has birthed some of the most amazing new artists and groups producing tunes today, people like "JPEGMAFIA", "Kendrick Lamar", "Rapsody", "Death Grips", 'BROCKHAMPTON", "Danny Brown", just to name a few. Rap, hip hop, and all the tree branch-genres snaking off of it are going through a sort of creative metamorphosis, an explosive period of innovation and experimentation that's birthed some wild, game changing stuff.
All this preamble is to say that while rock music is going through a lull, a damn good rock record came out, a real diamond in the rough. That record is Screaming Females "All At Once". Don't sleep on it.
Screaming Females are a New Jersey band that sticks hard to their D.I.Y. roots from its early days in basement show scene in Jersey. They maintain the same raw, frenetic energy they've had on all their records, feeling like some intense, jagged mix of "Dinosaur Jr", "Sleater Kinney", and even "The Cranberries" at times. The true selling point for me of Screaming Females though is their lead guitarist/vocalist, Marissa Paternoster. Obviously a band is a band is a band, its never just one person, it takes a village, etc. But gosh dang, is Marissa a fantastic fronter to an electrifying group. She shreds, dude. Check this cover they group did of "Shake It Off". The power she wields in a single guitar is overwhelming. So much so that "Spin Magazine" named her 77th greatest guitarist of all time. And that was only back in 2012, before 2015's fantastic "Rose Mountain", and more pressingly, their newest record "All At Once".
So the actual record "All At Once" is a 15 track, razor sharp 45 minute sprawl of punk, indie and experimental sounds, punctuated of course by some amazing guitar work. The record kicks off with the fantastic, brooding tune of "Glass House", a song with this hypnotic riff that slinks repetitively through the track, before exploding into this outro jam session, where Marissa bellows:
"My life in this glass house
Impossible to get out"
Which is a trait of Marissa's, and "Screaming Females" in general, that should not be overlooked- Marissa's yelping, bellowing singing voice, which like her guitar work, seems too powerful for her body to contain, threatens to explode out of her. It probably isn't for everyone- their cover of Sheryl Crow's "If It Makes You Happy" might be the perfect testing ground for first time listeners in regards to Marissa's voice. It's different- it's powerful, and it's passionate, and if you take it for what it is, you'll see the raw beauty of it. Especially in tracks like "Black Moon" and "I'll Make You Sorry".
"All At Once" is a high energy, visceral record, but it has its quieter, emotionally captivating moments too, like on "Deeply", a somber, indie rock flavored track, where Marissa sings:
"Play for me that song that you wrote hysterically loud
And lie to me cause I figured it out
I figured you out
I fall so deeply"
Give this album a try. Screaming Females is a group that has maintained a steady output for a decade, and seem to only be getting better and better as the years go by. While probably not some trailblazing, 'save-rock'n'roll' kind of record, "All At Once" is a catchy, fun, and emotional piece of music, one I can't seem to stay for away from these days. And at a breezy 45~ minutes, it's not too much a time commitment to sit down with a pair of headphones and let the album take you for a ride.