Kill Rock Stars
Aug 23, 2010 Web Exclusive
Egalitarian songwriting and the lack of a front person may presume the lack of a focal point. Grass Widow, a San Francisco post-punk trio that favors structure and form over grating guitar and speed, use this approach to their benefit, collaboratively writing songs and sharing vocal duties. Obvious touchstones are the breathiness of The Slits and The Raincoats' dynamism and penchant for building emotive songs. The Minutemen's rolling punk progressivism also comes to mind.
Rather than choosing to fill out the sound of their guitar/bass/drum instrumentation with big effects or overdubs, Grass Widow keep the production sparse. The end result is anything but minimal; economical would be a better descriptor as the band makes use of efficient bass and guitar lines that intertwine in perpetuity. Particularly interesting is Lillian Maring's drumming, playing not so much to provide a simple, solid backbone, but filling out the songs with constant flourishes—melodic and very musical.
Past Time is a big step forward from the band's self-titled 2009 debut, both in songwriting and musical ability. The production is even more transparent and does an accurate job of presenting the band as they sound live: raw and immediate. "Uncertain Memory" is a landmark song for the band and, at over three minutes, is as close to epic as they get. Maring's abundant drumming is spot on while Hannah Lew (bass) and Raven Mahon (guitar) weave a busy web of syncopation around the vocal harmonies. The rest of the album builds on that terrific opener with frantic intricacies, emotionally dark team vocal work, and occasional moments of quiet, lush instrumentation. While the songs certainly stand on their own, they do tend to blend into one another in the context of an album. Still, a fantastic collection of songs from three inspired musicians. (www.myspace.com/grasswidowmusic)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 6/10