Daughters – Back with a Vengeance

You Won’t Get What You Want is the first album from the band Daughters since their self-titled record in 2010, shortly after they announced an indefinite hiatus. It picks up from where the previous one left off – showing a new direction that stays true to the harsh sounds that they’re known for. As an album that was recorded intermittently, with some gaps between sessions stretching to a few months, YWGWYW doesn’t have the listener searching for coherence or direction. In fact, I’d argue it does the exact opposite – it grabs onto you and takes you in whichever direction the band wants you to go. Taken as a whole, the album is the most driving, visceral, gripping thing I’ve heard all year.

That being said, this isn’t just another aggressive noise rock album. It doesn’t rely solely on chugging, distorted riffs to convey intensity. There certainly are such moments (the best example being ‘The Reason They Hate Me’) but if they were relied upon all the way through the album, it wouldn’t hold onto the listener as tightly as it does. With the lengthier tracks we see on the album (older Daughters material rarely stretches past four minutes) this over-reliance would prove tiresome. Instead, the band hooks you in with dark instrumentation and enthralling lyrics. A fantastic example of this comes with the opening track ‘City Song’. It builds from a low synth line with occasional snare hits and vocal yelps until all instrumentation is stripped away, leaving only a spoken verse. I found myself hanging onto every word from frontman Alexis Marshall.

The album has been rightly described as ‘terrifying’ in some respects. The instrumentation certainly shows this. The rhythm section is fantastic throughout, with menacing fuzz bass lines that lurch forward as the songs progress. The guitar’s play may not be conventional but it is the most dynamic role. The guitar lines on the album are rarely heavily distorted riffs, instead opting for either piercingly bright lines or chopped-up, almost electronic parts. The guitar doesn’t showboat, but it never fails to build tension. This dynamism varies from sleazy blues-inspired licks on ‘Less Sex’ to far more ambitious techniques, but the effect persists. One of my favourite moments on the album, the instrumental breakdown from ‘Satan in the Wait’, exemplifies this. The mix strips back to minimal percussion (reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’) and more spoken word until the rest of the band explodes back in – punctuated by some unbelievably biting compressed chords. For the kind of music Daughters have been known for, these guitars are as clean as can be. This just goes to show that you don’t need to be dirty to be scary – you can be tormented by a guy in a suit just as well as one in a boiler suit. This subversion of the ‘heavy’ norm combines with frantic drum parts to generate a sense of pure anxiety and paranoia.

The lyrics justify this sense of terror. Phrases like “head like a matchstick; face like he was sucking concrete through a straw” conjure grotesque visions throughout the album. The penultimate track ‘Ocean Song’ reads like the screenplay of a horror film, with Marshall summoning images of a man being urged by some mysterious, unknown sense of dread “to go, to run” while the world around him falls increasingly dark. This internal despair only builds when combined with the instrumental features described above. The album’s closer, ‘Guest House’ really hits this theme home – describing a figure pounding and knocking on boarded-up doors and windows, screaming to be let in after coming from “where you can’t see”. The track closes with about forty seconds of beautiful strings. The contrast of this with the rest of the album’s unbridled intensity offers a moment of reflection and calm for the listener.

If it’s not already clear, I highly recommend this album. 10/10

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