Rapid Fire Reviews: Screaming Females, American Pleasure Club, Kal Marks

Posted: by The Editor

screamales all at once

Screaming Females — All At Once

It’s hard to talk shit on the Screaming Females. The NJ trio have been cranking out their singular brand of punk-minded rock ‘n roll for well over a decade now, amassing a dedicated cult following through their notoriously intense and virtuosic live shows. They’re irrefutably unique, objectively talented, and have admirably upheld their radical DIY ethics throughout their entire career, becoming the effective poster-children for Don Giovanni Records—whose contributions to the current wave of progressive social change in punk music continue to go underappreciated. Although All At Once lacks the cacophonous urgency that its title implies, and is overall the cleanest and least punky the band has ever sounded, the seventh Screamales record is a grand application of an all-encompassing musical philosophy. It feels like the record this band has been moving toward accomplishing for years now, as they abandon their comfort zones for mighty metal maneuvers (“Black Moon”, “Chamber For Sleep Part 1”) and slow-burning succulents (“Deeply,” “Bird In Space”) without ever putting their sonic integrity at risk.

Whereas 2015’s Rose Mountain felt like it struggled to be both varied and concise, All At Once (which is being billed as a double-album) is a return to the scope of Ugly but with the confidence of a band that’s dedicated themselves to broadening their songwriting craft.


american pleasure club a whole fucking lifetime

American Pleasure Club — A Whole Fucking Lifetime of This

American Pleasure Club is a true reinvention of Sam Ray. The infamous multi-instrumentalist behind Ricky Eat Acid and Teen Suicide (this project’s previous incarnation) sounds rejuvenated and, unlike on his 2016 meditation on death It’s The Big Joyous Celebration, Let’s Stir The Honeypot, alive. In what’s actually a beautiful allegory to Ray’s sobriety, A Whole Fucking Lifetime of This is the cleanest, prettiest and most focused release of his to date. He finally scrubs away the irritatingly lo-fi production that characterized all of Teen Suicide’s music (which had worn its wear by the end of Honeypot’s 26 songs) and sings with a newfound sense of purpose; as if he’s proud of what he’s saying, not half-heartedly muttering the words and then shrouding them in tape hiss to mask their meaning. Tracks like the fluttery folk ballad “florida (voicemail)”, the lullaby-esque “all the lonely nights in your life”, and the shimmering closer “the sun was in my eyes” are some of the most graceful tracks Ray’s ever dropped; “just a mistake” and “sycamore” are some of his most creative electronic ensembles; and “new years eve” and “there was a time when I needed it” are a couple of great, off-kilter power-pop tracks.

Every qualm I had with Honeypot’s anticlimactic companion piece, Bonus EP, is repaired on Lifetime, a promising and refreshing reset for one of this generation’s most polarizing artists.


universal care

Kal Marks — Universal Care

On Universal Care, Boston trio Kal Marks capture the indefinable angst that comes when we acknowledge the impermanence of our existence. It’s a record that greets death, failure and despair with a relentless howl, completely aware of the inevitability of such fates yet helplessly confused and disturbed by them. However, there’s hope that peeks through even the darkest chasms of this dreary sounding opus; in lyrics about deriving optimism from a spiritual connectedness with our fellow humans and in the unexpectedly pretty sonic passages that bubble up from what’s mostly sludgy noise-punk. Both provide a comforting and essential-feeling rally for hope. For frontman Carl Shane, who alternately drawls and shrieks about his relations to both heaven and hell, this hope is like an instinctual guiding light, driving him to conquer the “assholes” and perhaps achieve Universal Care. The record’s existential narrative about defeating Trump-era gloom is best summed up by the line, “all error is reason to start again,” which follows bleak references to climate change and prematurely dead friends; errors within our world that motivate Shane to believe that we genuinely can do better.

Kal Marks find the absolute perfect balance between abrasively ugly punk heaviness and beautifully tender indie rock lucidity on Universal Care, one of the most dynamic and engrossing rock experiences this writer has ever heard.


Eli Enis | @eli_enis

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