I’m ultimately super bummed out to have to explain the extent to which I am disappointed with this album. Getting the assignment, I was pretty stoked if I’m honest – getting to review the new record by a feminist hardcore punk band is pretty much my dream assignment. Instead, sitting listening to the record made me frustrated in ways I haven’t been in a really long time (like, yesterday).
I want to start off by saying that the album isn’t objectively bad by any stretch of the imagination, and it’s the last thing I want to do as someone trying to support women in the music industry and powerful feminist messages to (at least to some extent) drag this record. But I have to. It feels like it’s my sacred duty to defend what makes punk, punk. And it has nothing to do with the sound of the record, although it may seem that way. I am going to start with the sound, first though.
What is “punk”, anyway?
Since this is my first real piece to be published on GRIMM I want to set the record straight a little – while I may talk about punk like it’s some obvious thing, I know it’s not. And my definition of punk may be a little odd in this sense. Something being punk is something that has a distinct honesty to it, and represents something that needs to be represented. In actually achieving this representation, the music, lyrics, fairy dust, whatever goes into making a track or a record work, must be straightforward and never forget its message. For example, folky indie manic pixie dream-girl pop can be punk af in my opinion, it just has to maintain some level of self-awareness.
Is this a punk record?
This record doesn’t have that. Like, at all. Being a hardcore punk band in the more traditional sense, War on Women have been known to maintain pretty hardcore vocals, fast tracks filled with power chords, and lyrics with an intensely political feminist message. However, instead of delivering what we all want, this album teases a punk sensibility that gets lost in musical technicality. I get the feeling that the band spent too much time in the studio somehow and got lost in what to do next, meaning that the whole thing is just too much and much too overwhelming.
At some points, Capture the Flag sounds like it could be incredible – then it’s almost as though it comes to a fork in the road and takes the one that is exactly where you don’t want it to go (think Minor Threat shifting into the early Breeders during an awkwardly placed bridge).
I remember when initially hearing about the record, I was so excited I nearly peed when I heard that Kathleen Hanna was making an appearance. How I’ve missed her punk presence in her high pitched pristine valley-girl accent. But alas, her song is probably the messiest on the album. It’s almost like every member of the band, and probably the production people (who way overworked, by the way- it’s not only a mess but an overproduced mess), got so caught up in doing exactly what they wanted to do that they kind of forgot they had to work as a cohesive band.
A concluding note…
It breaks my heart to write all of this, it really does. So let me conclude on a positive note. The lyrics on this record are some of the most powerful I’ve heard in a long time, and I can certainly hear potential in the album to drive this further. I really really hope that War on Women can figure out the best way to get their message across without it getting lost in a lot of unnecessary shit, in future.
Release date: April 13th, 2018
Label: Bridge Nine Records
1. Lone Wolves
2. Silence is the Gift
3. Capture the Flag
4. Dick Pics
5. Pleasure and the Beast
7. The Violence of Bureaucracy
8. Divisive Shit
9. Predator in Chief
12. The Chalice and the Blade