Screaming Females

All at Once

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    8
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Screaming Females started their career as a smart, idiosyncratic punk rock band, and if they sound less like a doctrinaire punk outfit 11 years after their debut album, they're as smart and idiosyncratic as ever. The group's seventh studio album, 2018's All at Once, follows up on the progress of their previous effort, 2015's Rose Mountain, where they traded the crisply Spartan studio sound of Steve Albini's engineering for a more full-bodied production from Matt Bayles, whose approach suited the less noisy but similarly expressive attack of the band's new material. Bayles is at the controls once again for All at Once, and once again he helps Screaming Females sound as muscular as they deserve while giving them room to move and adding enough aural variety to keep things interesting. Dynamics play a bigger role than ever in the Females' music, and the interplay between the rhythm section -- bassist Mike Abbate and drummer Jarrett Dougherty -- and Marissa Paternoster's increasingly precise guitar work and rich, room-filling vocals adds up to an increasing sophistication in their approach that doesn't rob them of their energy or their power. Paternoster has grown as a soloist, but she knows when to kiss the sky and when to make with the power chords, and All at Once suggests a punk mindset informing a group that has drawn on hard rock, indie rock, and math rock to come up with a formula that the bandmembers have both created and mastered. Lyrically, All at Once is more impressionistic and less direct than the Females' early work, but that doesn't make what Paternoster has to say any less compelling, and the music speaks of creative ambition without clutter. Some fans might be surprised at the new directions Screaming Females have followed, but All at Once is just as clever, impassioned, and purposeful as we've come to expect from this band, and it's a truly rewarding listen.

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