Embarrassing admission #1: I watch Rock Star: Supernova.
Embarrassing admission #2: I really enjoy it.
Despite my questionable taste in television shows, I am actually smart and have excellent taste…or so I’d like to think. But back to Rock Star: Supernova, there’s something I’ve been noticing about the women who are competing on the show: they don’t really rock. Yeah, ok, they rock, but it’s kind of in that cheesy, over the top, Lita Ford kind of rock or it’s a very sexually overcharged, wearing weird gold jumpsuits kind of rock. (coughZAYARAcough) Oh did I just say that out loud? However, these women don’t really rock, like the way Karen O or PJ Harvey rock, much less someone like Wendy O. Williams. Yes, ladies of Rock Star: Supernova, it is possible to be a rock chick and not be so dated that you might as well have your bangs feathered.
This observation has also led me to notice the lack of women on radio stations geared towards rock music. I’m not burning bras or anything, but I wave the feminist flag when need be and Goddamnit, in this case it most certainly be! I like my women in music to be real, soulful, intelligent and to have flaws–not over-polished fluff like Ashlee Simpson. (And don’t even get me started on her…ahem, alleged nose job.) I can be such a champion of women in rock that I get overly excited to see a woman in a band, even if the band is mediocre.
I first noticed that the London-based Scanners count two women among their roster. I was already rooting for them before I even put on the album. As the Spice Girls once said: “Girl Power!” Their debut album Violence is Golden begins like concerts do, with people talking and then giving way to the band. “Joy” is gloomy, but completely danceable. Lead singer Sarah Daly’s voice is remarkably similar to PJ Harvey’s voice and, at times, it’s like the Scanners are the post-punk band Harvey never had. The verses are dark and melodic, reminiscent of Siouxsie and the Banshees. However the chorus, which basically consists of the band shouting “joy” over and over again, does become grating.
“Lowlife” is one of the best songs on the album. This is the song Brandon Flowers would write if he wore black lace and, well, was a girl. The hooks are incredibly catchy and Daly’s musky voice interweaves nicely with Matt Mole’s angular guitar work. “In My Dreams” drives the PJ Harvey comparisons home by sounding just like Harvey’s “This Mess We’re In,” complete with backing harmonies by a male vocalist (Matt Mole again!).
Despite keeping with the gloom and semi-gothic image, Daly’s voice is dynamic and is brimming with energy. Her black hair may be in her face, but, by God, she will rock out.
The intro verse to “Changing Times” is slow and I can imagine Daly onstage with a spotlight on her while the rest of the stage is dark. While it’s probably meant to be haunting, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the song Spinal Tap sang on The Simpsons. That probably wasn’t the band’s intent, however. The song is a bit melodramatic for my taste, but it’s definitely evident that they are fans of Bauhaus, which is, in itself, a good thing. Switching to an upbeat poppy drumbeat in “Bombs” makes the song sound something like an early Pretenders number and Daly affects Chrissie Hynde’s snarl perfectly.
Like most band’s debut albums, Violence is Golden is uneven. Some tracks don’t quite match up to the band’s really outstanding songs. “Evil Twin” trades in the angular electric guitar for a slide guitar and ends up being a rather flat song, complete with drumming that sounds more at home in a liberal arts college drum circle. Scanners are at their best when their songs mix equal parts gloomy post-punk with the poppiest of new wave, as evident in “Raw,” which is a few shades of eyeliner shy of requiring an accompanying Nagel print. And the psychedelic inspired sound of “High Flyer” doesn’t fit into the overall continuum of the album.
Despite some unevenness in the album, Scanners have a bright future and have huge potential. The main selling point really is Sarah Daly’s voice and the band rightfully makes it the centerpiece and doesn’t overshadow it with the music. Her voice has a very intense presence and saves their lesser songs from being truly bad songs. With a singer like Daly, it makes me want to show the women of Rock Star: Supernova that it’s totally possible to be intense and heavy without belting out “Kiss Me Deadly.”
PJ Harvey – Rid of Me
The Sounds – Living in America
Pretty Girls Make Graves – The New Romance