What exactly is the clearest career trajectory for a punk band? It’s kind of a ridiculous question, and I would be a ridiculous person to try and answer it. But it seems like the easy answer is there isn’t one, other than maybe an early death via heroin overdose or possibly flipping your once trusty touring van. However, there is a certain subset of bands that have gone the DIY route and managed to carve out a respectable career by just putting their nose down and rocking with purpose, while also just touring as much as humanly possible. Screaming Females seem to have stuck pretty close to this template with a surprisingly long stretch of productivity and doing it without ever seeming to give a fuck if the rest of the world catches on to their hard rocking sound.
But I guess that doesn’t get at the real question behind the band’s seventh album, and that’s what the sonic trajectory of a long-standing punk band should be, even if Screaming Females still feel pretty young and fresh to me, possibly because I didn’t get into them until their 2012 sludgefeast, Ugly. But judging from their latest Rose Mountain, the answer is to progress their sound a little bit, but not a ton. Lead single “Wishing Well” seemed to point at a more subdued side of the band that still had the ability to launch into guitar-chugging anthems at the drop of the hat. This was also the side I’d kind of been hoping for, since their last album was certainly a loud motherfucker, but I loved every time it dared to match its abrasiveness with the occasional hook or two.
Rose Mountain does this on occasion with the loopiness of Marissa Paternaster’s guitar-lines on “Triumph”, or with the surprisingly ballad-y “Hopeless”. But some of the louder, more straight-forward rocking numbers tend to feel a little safe, even for someone like myself who hasn’t done a ton of exploring of the Screaming Females back catalogue. Or maybe I can’t help but feel only mildly satisfied by Rose Mountain because it comes on the heels of the triumphant new album from Sleater-Kinney, a band whose footsteps Screaming Females clearly followed in during S-K’s hiatus. But regardless of the fact that Rose Mountain never hits quite as hard as No Cities To Love (not that that should matter, but whatever), I still take comfort in Screaming Females ability to keep getting in the van while still fighting the almighty punk fight.
Favorite Tracks: “Empty Head”, “Wishing Well”, “Triumph”