For the last 10 years Screaming Females have been putting out glorious punk music; rough round the edges and brilliantly crafted. Their last album ‘Ugly’ seemed like some sort of commercial breakthrough for the band as they further tried to blend more accessible sounds with their harsh punk-rock from their early days. Their new album ‘Rose Mountain’ feels like Screaming Females are trying to further gather a wider audience as they’ve gone for a sound that’s much more cleanly produced and delivered too.
Screaming Females have dabbled with the idea of embracing pop hooks for a little while with mixed results. ‘Rose Mountain’ is the sound of a band in many ways taking several steps forward in the right direction in terms of how they approach their song-writing. Take one of the first singles from the album, ‘Wishing Well’ which has some of the catchiest melodies the band has ever written, while they tone down the distorted guitars for the most part in favour of some fantastic grooves and more focus on the vocals. One of the benefits that they’ve reaped from cleaning up their sound is that these grooves have a lot more emphasis on them than on their previous albums as the basslines are pushed forward ever so slightly.
The clean production does do a good job in parts in showing off how talented this band is as musicians highlighting their guitar playing and rhythm section. Some of the more fiery songs are a testament to this like the first two songs on the record, ‘Empty Head’ and ‘Ripe’ which both show off some of their grizzly guitar lines. The track ‘Burning Car’ has one of the best guitar riffs from the whole album with it sitting inside the drum rhythms so tightly and supporting the lead singer, Marissa Paternoster’s howling vocals. Even though the production is more clear and shows off the finer details it doesn’t stop a lot of the harder riffs on here shining such as the opening to the track ‘Rose Mountain’ which has them sounding a lot like Black Sabbath with pounding drums and metal-esque riffing. It’s kind of disappointing when they do actually go into the track after the intro, as it’s a lot more tame than you’d want.
That’s one of the problems with this album, because although Screaming Females have taken big steps in the more pop orientated side of the song-writing, it feels like something has been lost along the way. You get the feeling that if they had decided to try to be a bit more rough round the edges this LP would feel a bit more rounded as a whole product. The production can sometimes make the occasional riff feel obsolete and it sometimes feels like some of the songs are simply lesser versions of other songs on the album like the track ‘It’s Not Fair’. As it stands this album is a great stepping stone in many ways for the band. Ten years into their careers, they’re still a young band and they feel like they have so much ahead of them.
Best Tracks: Wishing Well, Ripe, Triumph, Rose Mountain