Screaming Females: the last living punk rockers

A personal story, if you care to listen.

Several months ago, I ordered a record from the Screaming Females website. Within a weeks of receiving the first reocrd, I ordered another one. When the second record arrived, the mailing sleeve had a personalized note from their drummer, taking note of my sporadic ordering habits.

Maybe that means nothing to anyone else. I’m willing to accept that; to me, it was a small gesture that speaks to the power of underground music. It’s within reach, it’s palpable. You interact with the bands when you order their merchandise, and usually, you can talk to them after the shows. Maybe they’ll even crash on your couch.

That’s a world away from the overblown and stuffy world of arena rock.

Screaming Females has been around since 2006, and has blazed a fine trail, touring relentlessly and putting out four great albums. While the band name implies a plurality of bellowing women, there’s only one female member, Marissa Paternoster, lead singer and guitarist. She’s joined by drummer Jarrett Dougherty, and King Mike on bass.

If guitar rock is dying, this band does its damndest to save it. They’re hard to pin down except to say they play heavy music filled to the brim with riffs and hooks. It’s catchy enough to avoid being labeled stoner-rock, but too fluid to be a simple punk band. The lazy will make comparisons to Sleater-Kinney. I’ve heard Throwing Muses comparisons thrown around as well.

Yes, she has a righteous bellow that would make any riot girrrl proud, but I think Paternoster is a whole lot closer to J. Mascis than she is to either of the above-mentioned acts. She has the same supernatural skill at evoking otherworldly sounds from a guitar that Mascis does, and doesn’t waste a single note in her playing.

That being said, were the two pitted against each other in an indie rock wank-off, Paternoster and co. would blow Mascis and just about anyone off the stage. This is a band that must be experienced live; they attack their recorded material with a ferocity that’s near-impossible to capture on a studio recording. Paternoster is inevitably the center of attention, hopping around the stage like a muppet and making the most out of her petite frame.

Music is rife with tired cliches, one of the most criminally stupid being the every 5-year panic about punk or rock being dead. The reality is, as long as there are bands like Screaming Females who take to their material and their work like lion-tamers, then all is well with the world.

Check out Screaming Females:

Their website

Author: Affluent White Male

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