Exactly what I wanted from new Daughters.
I once had a friend note how so many punk releases over the last few years have had names that sound like insults and truisms a total dude-bro tosser would say. Think Nails’ ‘You Will Never Be One Of Us’, or The Body’s ‘No One Deserves Happiness’. Daughters first album in eight years, ‘You Won’t Get What You Want’, is the most recent addition to this bizarre naming trend. As soon as you hear the first song off Daughters’ latest work, you’re going to know exactly what you’re in for. So if you don’t like it, you had better leave immediately, friendo. The song in question is 'City Song', starting with synthetic drones and sparse, rhythmic drumming; ending with a cacophonous climax of noisy electronics and despairing vocals that repeat “The city’s an empty glass" over and over. It's great, I swear.
'You Won’t Get What You Want’ has one primary sound that you'll get a feel for extremely quickly. On every track, you’ll find super-distorted power electronics, over-bearing atmos, mechanical and rhythmic drumming, and repetitive, desperate vocals that sound as miserable as they do passionate. Which is to say, a lot. Think Big Black on cough syrup; no wave-era Swans using a synth submerged in a bucket of bleach; or Suicide writing songs under a drug-induced psychosis. It’s quite a ride! In fact, that sound tends to skew one of two ways over the course of the album, and this lends 'You Won’t Get What You Want' the variety that it needs to not make it void of interest or engagement in its nearly 50-minute runtime. As the album is split between slow, mechanical, atmospheric drones, and faster noise-punk songs, slightly more reminiscent of this band’s earlier grindcore roots. It's all solid but I personally find myself gravitating towards the faster, noisier flavoured tracks more so over the course of the album. The first of these, ‘Long Road, No Turns’, is probably my favourite track overall. It's just got this jagged, pounding ¾ beat that feels like the soundtrack to being chased through an abandoned city at night. And I love that shit!
The same can be said for the final track, ‘Guest House’, which caps off the album incredibly well with the same angular, ultra-distorted electronics that go on for so long that they’re likely to make you genuinely uncomfortable. (A big part of why this record is so gripping). Especially with Alexis S.F. Marshall's repeated yells, screams, and cries of “Let me in!”; like he’s stuck outside a locked house during a hurricane or trapped in a quarantine zone and is going to be soon turned inside-out like the ending of that one episode of The Simpsons. The closer ends on a powerful ascent to even more intensity, all brought on by rising dynamics of horns, strings, and crashing drum cymbals over booming tom rolls. And all you can do is sit there, letting this glorious climax and eerily atmospheric outro wash over you like the magical menstruating elevator from The Shining. A fucking fantastic way to end a fucking fantastic album!
Speaking of those electronics, it’s notable that nothing on this new Daughters album stands out as insanely technical all by itself. Yes, Jon Syverson's drumming is exceptional, but it works to suit the electronics and the vocals, neither of which are virtuosic by any stretch. But that's not an issue. As 'You Won’t Get What You Want' works because it’s so much better than the sum of its parts. It takes various ideas and sounds that seem like a giant pain in the arsehole by themselves and then makes them all work in tandem as a cohesive, exciting album. That's great songwriting, truly.
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The more atmospheric tracks have a lot to bring to the table themselves, despite being generally more low-key. The moody ‘Less Sex’ feels like an electronic take on the ol' classic no-instrumental-chanted-vocals trope, yet is broken up by some brain-searing electronics at the perfect intervals. Now, I somewhat have a grudge against most ambient, atmospherically-minded tracks in general, as if Brian Eno once keyed my car or something. Yet here, the atmospheric tracks are diverse and written well enough to make even the most simple-minded person in any given room (i.e. me) to find them continually interesting and unnerving. Well done for that, Daughters, you get me.
Perhaps I was a little presumptuous to say that the material on this LP can be split into two group. As it’s more accurate to say that the songs are on a spectrum between these two points. For instance, ‘City Song’ begins as a plodding, atmospheric tune to begin the album, but quickly joins the ranks of the most intense songs on the entire album. Similarly, ‘Daughter’ fluctuates from droning and slow over to fast and chaotic as quickly as I change my opinion from loving Melbourne to suddenly wanting to live in the Tasmanian wilderness in a van. (Which is at the drop of a fuckin' hat, by the way). Truly every song on Daughters new effort contains wonderful moments of pure atmospheric haze, just as almost all of them have a draw as a wild, unhinged descent into total sonic madness. Again, I love that shit.
Some people might be turned off by the lack of variety on 'You Won’t Get What You Want', and this is also the part where I acknowledge that I’ve criticized albums in the past for not being varied enough too. But my argument here is that ‘You Won’t Get What You Want’ doesn’t need any more variety than what it currently exudes, whereas those other albums did. (Because I said so and I’m always right). One great element here is that occasionally, Daughters will throw in some curveballs that you don’t expect. Like the glittering keys during the chorus of the surreal ‘Satan In the Wait’, or the aforementioned horns in ‘Guest House’ that make me feel like I’m falling eternally. Ruminating on an old sound can get boring pretty damn fast, but ruminating on a whole new sound is great. As it shows one's commitment and openness to exploring new territory, kinda like an adorable dog circling the spot where it’s going to sit down and you just wanna pat it but you can’t and you just feel like dying inside. My point being that there’s enough variety to be had that by the end of this new epic, you won’t be missing Daughters older, heavier sound a la 'Canada Songs' (2003). And that’s the most important thing here. Well, that, and the fact this album is a very odd listen, and if anything, the sheer strangeness and dark atmospherics of this release will stick with you long after it ends.
‘You Won’t Get What You Want’ is the frontrunner for my favourite album of the year so far. The desperate and pleading atmosphere it creates is damn-near-perfect, and every single piece of the album and these ten individual songs come together in an immaculate way. Now I have to go back through everything else Daughters has ever done and likely be slightly disappointed that nothing quite compares to this brand new, eerie, compelling showstopper of a record. So, lastly, I have nothing else silly or interesting to add here, other than this: just go listen to the damn album already!
Long Road, No Turns
Satan in the Wait
The Flammable Man
The Lords Song
The Reason They Hate Me
'You Won't Get What You Want' is out now.