Expressions of Interest


(LP - Upset the Rhythm #UTR 141)

Review by Heather Phares

Post-punk has been the perfect soundtrack to times of doubt, paranoia, and isolation since the 1970s, so it's no surprise that it thrived in the early 2020s. Melbourne's Screensaver know that anxiety is an energy, and on their debut album Expressions of Interest, they take the worry and uncertainty of the COVID-19 era and transform it into a darkly driving musical force. Screensaver also know a thing or two about making music in isolation: The band grew out of long-distance collaborations between guitarist/keyboardist Christopher Stephenson and vocalist/keyboardist Krystal Maynard, an experience that prepared each member to record separately during quarantine lockdowns. However, they sound so tight and confident on Expressions of Interest that listeners would never guess it wasn't made with all of them together in the studio. The album spans the gnawingly ominous "Overnight Low" -- one of the clearest connections to Stephenson and Maynard's stints with noisy punk outfits like Spray Paint and Bad Vision -- to the monster synth groove of "Buy Sell Trade," an anti-consumerist rant that owes as much as to Kraftwerk as it does to Devo. Though Screensaver's lineup comes close to a supergroup of Australian post-punk talent, with members who have played in EXEK, Rat Columns, and other acts putting their stamp on these time-tested sounds, it's Maynard's voice that immediately distinguishes them from their peers. A vibrato-heavy alto snarl in the vein of Siouxsie Sioux or Adult.'s Nicola Kuperus, it's a refreshing -- and imposing -- change from the deadpan vocal style of many post-punkers in the 2020s. Maynard is more than a match for the din she and her bandmates make on "Regular Hours," where she bluntly intones "You wallow in the rubble of your own shit" over percussion that sounds more like clanging scrap metal than crash cymbals. Screensaver's expressions of alienation are both timeless and timely; in lockdown, everyone's an outsider. They make being a shut-in "paralyzed by fear" sound thrilling on the jagged "No Movement Here," and paint an almost soothing picture of apocalyptic destruction on the closing track "Soft Landing." Though portraits of fear and ennui like "Meds" could easily become monotonous, Screensaver avoid this dilemma because they never sound bored. This is one of the reasons Expressions of Interest is such a well-crafted debut, along with their skill at a fundamental strength of post-punk: reminding listeners that they're not alone in their loneliness.

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