Questions are usually asked, but after 17 years, where does this leave one? Or two? But in this case three, three members in a group that’s pounded pavement setting up equipment, touring all around the world, and releasing album after blistering album? Of course, I don’t have the answers but in the case of Screaming Females, the answer doesn’t come clearer than writing, recording, and releasing its 8th full-length album Desire Pathway (Don Giovanni), the band’s first full-length album in 5 years. That respite in between albums may just have been a good thing for the group though.
The lineup for the NJ group remains with its original members of guitarist Marissa Paternoster, bassist Mike Abbate, and drummer Jarrett Dougherty. Even by DIY standards, that’s pretty impressive but it’s the band’s flair for extremes is what’s allowed Screaming Females to flourish without compromise. This is exactly what Desire Pathway offers with a variety of textures in the band’s songwriting, allowing the group to fully embrace its own evolution in sound. We still have Paternoster’s signature wavering vocals, accentuated by powerful deliveries of the band’s instruments. Throughout the album, no two songs even remotely sound like one another as the group’s thunderous sound reverberates from track to track.
Screaming Females has been on its own trajectory and doesn’t seem fazed by any outside influence. Of course, in 5 years, the band has evolved and (gasp!) matured. That’s not to worry though, the band hasn’t eschewed its punk ways. The trio has, in a sense, taken it up a level and it becomes clear on the album’s opener “Brass Bed,” reverberating with anthemic value. The progression, the melody, and the harmonies; all collide with one another here for something quite infectious. The track is fitted with walls of guitar, feedback, catchy hooks, guitar solos, and Paternoster’s over-the-top vocal delivery. All of it works and it just might become your favorite song of all time. The outfit isn’t a one-hit wonder though, and this album proves it. The explosive “Desert Train” is unrelenting from beginning to end as the band holds tightly to a rhythm and never lets go of it, but why would they? It satisfies the punk kid still residing within, along with the ghostly pop wonder many of us still have.
It’s the more classic leaning of “Mourning Dove” though that some might find solace within, which still holds tightly to the band’s roaring display of sound. The difference here though is the sheer unabashed sugary popness of it all. Paternoster’s signature quivering voice is prominent here but hot damn, those hooks, and choruses! Depending on your taste, maybe this’ll be your favorite track? I may have spoken too soon earlier but then “Ornament” hits heavily and while he didn’t write it, one can imagine J. Mascis taking this song and trying to make it his own. He’s done it in the past with others so why not with Screaming Females? But I digress. Paternoster’s finger work here hits that overdrive with finesse while the rhythm holds everything together storming through it like a Proud Boy on January 6th. Ok, maybe this could be your favorite song, and there’s no question there. While it’s not surprising to find Paternoster alone with her guitar, you might not expect it here but “So Low” doesn’t seem to need anything else. It’s pretty, littered with harmonies on occasion, juxtaposed by her questionable lyricism leaving us all wondering if the authorities need to be alerted.
But you won’t be able to let go of Screaming Females at any point throughout this album as the mid-tempo of “Let Me Into Your Heart” sucks you right in. The wordplay and instrumentation all fall right in line allowing listeners to become a part of the narrative, of course, from a distance. There’s just no room for the band to fuck around, tossing around filler just to round out a release. That’s not what we all want, and we know that’s not what the group would want either. “Titan” closes things and creeps TF out of the rhythm pattern here, again with powerful and catchy vocals, loaded with harmonies. Even guitar notes fill out those harmonies!
Maybe you’ve guessed it, maybe you haven’t but Desire Pathway is that new ish that’s about to set the world ablaze. Screaming Females doesn’t hold back, moving forward is the way, without the evolution in sound, a band is only going to repeat the same cycle. Not Screaming Females though, the band continues to rage. The members have only ascended and leveled up.