WATCH: Taraka – ‘PSYCHOCASTLE’

Set to release her first solo album in October, former Prince Rama front-woman Taraka has now shared the advance single from her debut. ‘Psychocastle‘ was released last week and, if it’s any indication of things to come, the upcoming album – Welcome to Paradise Lost – promises a grunge laden, visceral departure from the psych-dance stylings of Prince Rama.

Welcome to Paradise Lost was conceived by Taraka whilst she was attempting a return to a pre-internet Eden by living in solitary confinement in a hot Texas gallery with a live serpent. ‘Psychocastle’ certainly sounds like someone struggling with their own company in an overheated space. Lyrics swing from love to hate in the same breath, moaning guitar hooks wail over a distorted vocal. The overall effect is deliciously uncomfortable, a sort of Courtney Love/Hole for the post-pandemic generation – those same grunge sensibilities, but with less earwig chorus hooks and more sprinkles of inertia, confusion, distress and stasis.

An accompanying music video (directed by Matthew Hoffman and Taraka and shot on 8mm) juxtaposes brutalist tumbledown city apartment blocks with salubrious, bucolic scenery. Taraka is pictured against both landscapes predominantly attached to a bed that she seems doomed to take everywhere with her. The aesthetics hark back to the old saying “you made your, bed you lie in it” (used memorably by Love as part of ‘Miss World’), and perhaps allude to feminist politics – in particular Emma Sulkowicz’ performance art piece ‘Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight)’. Taraka plays with ideas of reality and escape with a colourful, quirky charisma as she is filmed in a leotard depicting internal organs, muscles and skeletal structure whilst a bloodied tampon swings joyfully between her legs – a powerfully arresting image. 

To quote from the artist directly: “Ever try to consult your inner self, but inside your skin is merely a rotting corpse? Ever feel like every path you take is just another mobius strip leading you back to where you first began? Congratulations, welcome to the Psychocastle.”

‘Psychocastle’ is out now, and is taken from Taraka’s debut album Welcome to Paradise Lost – due out 8th October via her label Rage Peace.

Kate Sullivan
@katesullo

Photo Credit: Matthew Hoffman

ALBUM: Girl Friday – ‘Androgynous Mary’

Hardly Art are hardly novices at breaking new bands – the label gave early releases to the likes of Tacocat, La Luz, Shannon & The Clams and Colleen Green, amongst many others – but for LA four-piece Girl Friday, this debut album release on the label reflects a massive step forward for a band after just two EPs, which were self-released. But equally, for a group with this diversity of influence, and this originality of expression, perhaps it’s not so surprising that they’re hosting the band’s new album Androgynous Mary. 

The group came together via a chance encounter when guitarist Vera met bassist Libby at a friend’s house, at UCLA. Impressed by Libby’s particular style of playing bass – the Peter Hook merged with Kim Deal style of which certainly informs the ten tracks on Androgynous Mary. Vera introduced herself and the pair began making music together, bringing in additional guitarist Sierra and drummer Virginia through friends of friends.

What really marks the group out is their refusal to pigeon-hole themselves, generically, with this LP displaying flashes of surf-rock, garage, post-punk, goth, art-rock and pop-punk. And, although the foursome certainly have a broadly feminist identity, this is no mere political screed. Rather, it’s a collage of sounds and ideas from their time together, as informed by “parking lot murals” as the SCUM Manifesto, in a way not dissimilar to Girl Friday’s  hero, Courtney Love.

Album opener, ‘This Is Not the Indie Rock I Signed Up For’, is a case-in-point. It’s initially a gentle lead-in that shows off Girl Friday’s gorgeous vocal harmonies and soaring guitar lines, all contained in a mid-tempo post-punk ballad. But, in perhaps a meta callback to its title, the song falls apart into a free-form breakdown a few minutes in, before returning to its original style.

Second track and the album’s lead single, ‘Amber’s Knees: A Matter of Concern’ is built around a choppy, spikey slice of lo-fi indie-punk guitar.  Described by the group as a consideration of “the borders of culturally sanctioned dissociation and the wilful ignorance we often employ to keep things functioning”, its juxtaposition of post-punk and lyrical density gives it a substantial atmosphere that belies the accessibility of its sound. This is also true to some extent with ‘Eaten Things’, which veers more towards a gloomy, grunge sludge bass-led sound, and thumping percussion – “I want to eat you up” goes its chorus, before a grim sounding middle eight that sounds epically gothic.  

Lyrically, ‘Public Bodies’ is a return to the observational nature of the first two tracks, whilst sonically shifting the album into Allo Darlin’ style melancholic indie-pop. Musing on mainstream rejection, isolation and the inaccessibility of healthcare in the USA (that’s one interpretation), it uses images of religion and bodies consumed by capitalist machinery, stating “…if you want your independence, then you trade your health for cash”. The song closes with a Goo-era Sonic Youth style coda, underlining the band’s ability to re-construct their songs, seemingly on the spur of the moment, like an act of collective will. This is also true of what follows in ‘What We Do It For’ – opening with 90 seconds of post-punk instrumental led by spectral guitars (not far from the early days of Interpol), leading to a middle section of balladic harmonies, and closing with a flurry of guitars and drums; it’s like three different songs beautifully crashing into each other.  

‘Earthquake’ is a more immediate, Runaways style garage banger, replete with a shouty chorus which, somewhat appropriately, leads to an emotional shift in the album. ‘Clotting’ contains soft vocalisations and more personally emotive lyrics, not dissimilar to Sleater Kinney’s quieter work, whilst ‘Gold Stars’ is a mid-tempo grunge tale of an unwanted relationship (“I said leave, but you heard love”), underscored by Libby’s bass melodies. 

Closers ‘Favourite Friend’ and ‘I Hope Jason Is Happy’ form a dovetailing pair, sharing a stadium-filling guitar line that shines throughout both – “My head doesn’t fit the crown, does it matter anymore?” opens the lyrics on the mournful former, and the track slowly grows in intensity, dropping away to leave only the sustained guitar lead-in to the LP’s closer. Over a marching drum beat and fuzzy guitars, Girl Friday’s four members sing “My head is on your chest / In the end I’ll be happy if you do your best / You’ve got to fight to keep your breath in this world” and, with that, it finishes.

Precocious, without being naïve, and intelligent, without being pretentious, Girl Friday have crafted a debut that is no mere polemic, but allows imagist lyrics and inventive song-craft to create a palpable sense of character for the listener to lean into. It cuts a slice through influences, that stretch from the early ’70s, up to the present day – sifting, magpie-like, through the works of The Breeders, The Slits, Girlpool, Placebo, and (perhaps unconsciously) the C86 movement. Throughout, that bass sound flows, like a dark river, stretching a taut string across ten tracks, that each ring with their own distinct power. In short, Girl Friday have constructed a debut that’s suitable for all the days of the week.

Androgynous Mary is out 21st August via Hardly Art. Pre-order here.

John McGovern
@etinsuburbiaego

Photo Credit: Al Kalyk

Re-Covered: Sally-Anne’s Illustrated Favourite Albums

If you’re anything like us, throughout Lockdown you may have been seeking refuge in some of your favourite records, perhaps rediscovering some old classics along the way. In the first of a new feature, illustrator Sally-Anne Hickman re-imagines her favourite ten albums of all time by painting their covers in her own unique style, using watercolours.

Check out the first of Sally-Anne’s choices below, and keep your eyes peeled for the rest over the next few weeks… 

Hole – Live Through This
From the opening chords coupled with the lyrics “and the sky was made of amethyst”, ‘Violet’ – the opening track of Live Through This – perfectly captures the powerful raw energy that courses through this album’s veins. Courtney Love’s personal lyrics deal with themes of body image, motherhood and revenge, creating various female characters written from her own pain and trauma. I have played this album thousands of times, its blended melodies sit over the heavy guitar riffs perfectly and were a chaotic soundtrack to my adolescence.

Sally-Anne Hickman
@sallyshinystars

Still Spinning: Hole – ‘Nobody’s Daughter’

Our brand new Still Spinning feature focuses on records that we consider to be iconic – whether that’s for popular, or personal reasons – and celebrates our enduring love for them. First up, Co-Founder & Features Editor Kate Crudgington talks us through why Hole’s fourth album, Nobody’s Daughter, released in 2010, is still one of her most influential listens.

 

Admired by plenty and maligned by equally as many, Hole‘s front woman Courtney Love has been a controversial figure in rock music for over two decades. Actively antagonistic towards the 90s Riot Grrrl movement – even though many consider her music & persona to be the living embodiment of it – Love has carved a career that’s so notoriously independent I often forget there are four other talented musicians in her band, Hole.

That being said, the majority of these musicians were absent from the recording of Nobody’s Daughter, which was initially conceived as Love’s second solo record in 2005. It’s probably worth mentioning that Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins played a role in the writing of this album too, but I don’t want to get into production credits. What I want to get into is how Hole – and by default, Courtney Love – have created some of the most cathartic, memorable music I’ve ever heard.

There’s no denying Love has exhibited plenty of toxic behaviour in the past, but I feel her male counterparts in the industry are rarely treated with such judgement, disdain or hatred. I don’t care if her vocals aren’t pitch perfect, or if she plays chords “the lazy way,” as my first boyfriend once put it. What I care about is how her music offers an alternative to angry women and girls, growing up in a world that consistently tells them to minimise their anger.

Nobody’s Daughter is the first Hole album I listened to in full. I was about to turn twenty-five and I was livid and heartbroken after my 3 and a half year relationship had unexpectedly come to an end. My cousin Rebecca – an original 90s Riot Grrrl – gave me some of her Hole CDs and from the opening lyric of the eponymous track, I was hooked. “Made something better / kept it for himself” seethes Love, taking me right back to the rage I felt the morning after the breakup. I was so embarrassed, so humiliated and so frustrated and I couldn’t communicate that properly to my friends and family. I’d been waiting for permission to tell the truth about my post-breakup feelings, and Nobody’s Daughter granted me that permission in a heartbeat.

It’s worth noting I took the lyrics on this album very seriously/personally, which is probably why I prefer the ragers and not the quieter tracks. The way Love snarls “Don’t tell me I have lost / when clearly I’ve won” resonated with me deeply post-breakup. I needed that level of petty competitiveness to get me through. Love could be referring to any number of things on ‘Nobody’s Daughter’ – including her own complicated relationship with Frances Bean Cobain – but to me, that track is a defiant middle finger to anyone who had a pre-conceived idea of how I would behave or react post-relationship.

Vicious second track ‘Skinny Little Bitch’ is another example of how I framed Love’s aggressive lyrics to fit my own feelings. The track rips into life in such a violent, infectious way, it’s hard not to screech the lyric “You will never see the light / I’ll just obscure it out of spite” without feeling fan-fucking-tastic. Of course, I don’t advocate women tearing down other women – especially not about their weight – but whether you frame yourself as the bitch Love’s hating on in the song, or as the bitch who’s tearing this girl a new one – it’s hard not to find respite in the spite, even if it feels misdirected when I listen to it now.

The third rager is ‘Samantha’. It comes after alt-folk tracks ‘Honey’ and ‘Pacific Coast Highway’, both of which feel like they could soundtrack a Bonnie & Clyde style getaway film. They’re not bad tracks by any means, but they’re easy to skip over when you know ‘Samantha’ is on the horizon. “Watch her wrap her legs around this world / can’t take the gutter from the girl” seethes Love, over roaring guitars and buzzing bass lines. I love the accompanying video to this track, where she’s tearing through a desolated city, wearing a wedding dress with the word “c**t” embroidered on it.

I think the most vicious line on the record is “If you were on fire / I would just throw kerosene”. I was intoxicated by Love’s ability to speak the psychopathic unspeakable. The follow-up lyric “I love so much I hate / and I hate what you have seen in me” still strikes a chord today. The binary opposites of love and hate and how they’re a hair’s breadth apart in feeling is something that fuels Nobody’s Daughter, and is probably why I invested so much time listening to it in the aftermath of a breakup.

I’m out of the ragers zone now and rolling around in ‘Someone Else’s Bed’. In the midst of hanxiety (hungover anxiety), I would listen to this and take a sick kind of joy from the lyric “I quite enjoy your suffering / Oh I want to watch the view”. When I listen back now, I smirk at how much time twenty-five year old me dedicated to stewing in all these awful emotions, being angry and upset about something I couldn’t change.

Unfortunately, my attention drifts towards the end of Nobody’s Daughter. ‘For Once In Your Life’, ‘Letter To God’ and ‘Loser Dust’ go over my head. Things pick up again when Love starts shouting and screaming on ‘How Dirty Girls Get Clean’. It smoulders with her trademark fury, even in the opening verses where it’s just Love and her acoustic guitar. ‘Never Go Hungry’ closes the record with a quiet determination. “I’m hungry for / life a little less cruel” muses Love, a repentant sentiment that still fills me with hope.

Nobody’s Daughter taught me many things, but mostly it taught me that feeling irrational, or angry at a situation you can’t change is okay. It also taught me how destructive those feelings can be. It was my introduction to Hole’s discography and led me to discover Live Through This, another Hole album I feel forever indebted to. Say what you like about Courtney Love – and the whole Hole saga – Nobody’s Daughter is a fierce, frenzied record that deserves repeated listens (purely for the ragers).

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut