Women - Public Strain

Women’s enigmatic self-titled 2008 debut was the rarest of jumping off points –a fully-realized artistic statement that came out of nowhere. Drawing on some of post-punk’s usual suspects for inspiration (VU, Wire, This Heat, even British Invasion), and mixing harsh white-noise with soaring pop melodies, Women was unlike any other album released that year. It was the type of record that had some irresistible individual moments – “Shaking Hand” and “Black Rice” spring to mind – but many of the songs were of the kind that took multiple listens to navigate and appreciate. Once that happened though, it was clear you were listening to a young band that was a force to be reckoned with. The record gained the Calgary four-piece considerable attention, and, for the follow up, they once again decided to work with fellow Canadian Chad VanGaalen as producer.

The result doesn’t make any concessions toward accessibility. Public Strain is an even denser recording than its predecessor that further blurs the line between melody and noise. Where Women contained the “pop” songs and the “noise” songs, Public Strain contains the Women songs – equal parts of each throughout. A few weeks ago I said Cotton Jones’ Tall Hours in the Glowstream might have the most fitting title of any album I’ve heard this year, and the same might be said of Public Strain’s cover image. A harsh, white-out blizzard scene captures the near-claustrophobic aesthetic of these eleven songs perfectly. Cold, distant, and challenging (with, perhaps ironically, an opening drone of a song called “Can’t You See” that is among its most opaque), the album lacks a song with the immediacy of a “Black Rice”. What it has instead are eleven dissonant songs full of buzzing feedback and obscured melodies that, after time to sink in, prove to be equally inspired as those on their debut.

MP3 :: Eyesore

MP3 :: Narrow With The Hall

(from Public Strain. Buy here)


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