I can only image the amount of shit that has been hoisted on New Brunswick, NJ power trio Screaming Females for its name. In the canon of awful band names, it isn't an offender on the level of Natalie Portman's Shaved Hear or Crane Your Swan Neck, but the fact that only one member is actually female might disappoint those hoping to see an awesome riot girrrrl act, or a punk gender-bending trio of cross-dressers.
The female is Marissa Paternoster, a beguiling petite young woman who is seemingly shy until she grips her guitar, unleashing a world of fury. Big things come in small packages (like, say, dynamite), and the diminutive Paternoster is the equivalent of a stick TNT shoved up a muffler. At the band's set at the Replay on Thursday night, Paternoster lead her fellow yelling women through a routine of heavy rockers that cribbed the best elements from punk, surf and prog creating a sonic palette ripe with monster riffage.
It was a no chit-chat affair, aside from the occasional quiet "thank you." What remained were the band's brawny and powerful songs. A comment I've read about the band described Paternoster as "Hendrix, Angus [Young], PJ Harvey and Kurt Cobain all in one package of unadulterated fury." It may seem spurious to elevate this Screaming Female alongside such hallowed figures, but there's really no other way to describe her slashing rage.
Beyond that, her vocal style -- a mix of Patti Smith and Kristina Ford, combined with a little screaming -- complimented the bands' gritty stoner-rock. On "Starve the Beat," Paternoster's voice warbled in the clean grooves of the rhythms created by drummer Jarrett Dougherty and bassist King Mike before exploding into the chorus. "Starve the Beat" also featured one of Paternoster's thoroughly wicked guitar solos, lifted, it seems, from 1974 -- the year we all know rock and roll attained perfection.
Intentionally or not, this band sounds an awful lot like many other bands; but everything about Screaming Females coheres incredibly well. While Paternoster is clearly a stand out frontwoman -- not just because of her role as the vocalist, but also as her role as a superstar guitar-smith -- "Lights Out" showcased how tightly the band functions as a singular unit. Knotty and heavy, the song was hot-rodded toward its spastic climax, with Dougherty's clattered drumming keeping the sloppy beat.
The best song of the set by far was "Buried in the Nude," the paranoid finale to 2009's Power Move. Pitched by screeching guitars over a turbo-charged beat and featuring the most banshee-like wailing of the night, "Buried in the Nude" sums up Screaming Females sound: it crosses the wires of punk and hard rock effortlessly.