Recorded in a Blackpool rehearsal room by James Routh of Sonic Boom Six. Cover art by Esme Baker (vocalists, tattooist and owner of Boileroom Tatoo in Guildford, Surrey). Released on 30 March 2018.
Friday 30 March saw the release of this fabulously titled second EP from London four-piece punk band Screech Bats: Wish You Were Her. It sounds rather fabulous too.
According to vocalist Esme Baker, the EP is “about women who have, for entirely different reasons, had a profound impact on my life, but are no longer in it. Most of the lyrics are drawn from real experiences and on the whole we want to make dark, often ‘taboo’ topics, approachable with a positive message.”
“Blood in my hair” (track 1) kicks off the EP with an abrupt and surprisingly metal bang! Four bars of staccato chords and a ticking hi-hat give way suddenly to a pulsing, melodic punk song. The song has a simple stripped back and warm sound. Baker’s alto vocals are clear, pushing a little to distortion at times and to good effect; I could listen to her voice for hours.
“Get better” (track 2) rides on a memorable riff that gets stuck in your head, while the lyrics tell a story in that most perfect of punk traditions and a fabulous singalong chorus “Since you’ve been gone I’ve been down so low / Ohhhhh / Are you better than this? / Since you’ve been gone I don’t know who I am / I’ll be better!” And yet it can’t really get any better than this—this is a perfect pop punk song. It has melody, it has energy, it has emotion.
“Every good thing” (track 3) is built on a cyclical Husker Dü/Bob Mould-style arpeggio that repeatedly builds and resolves, creating expectation and tension before morphing into a start-and-stop coda. It’s such a good song. I should feel guilty, but I’m not.
“Just like you” (track 4) opens with a double-stop bass riff that is soon joined by a jangly guitar and double bass. Baker’s vocals are so smooth as she sings “Hello honey how your face has changed | You used to be so pretty…” The off-beat rhythm changes about halfway through and you can’t but bounce along to the song. And then… it twists again towards a sudden ending.
“My lover hates me and I don’t mind,” Baker laments at the start of “That valentine song” (track 5). It’s a relatively straightforward and simple song to bring the EP to a close. Just as it looks like it’s not going anywhere Kit Reeve launches into a majestic and rather beautiful guitar solo. It completely lifts the song and transforms it into something quite gorgeous. My only complaint: the metal-tastic chugging that leads the song out could have lasted a lot longer than three seconds!
This is a gorgeous EP. Five perfectly crafted pop-punk songs that balance melody with raw energy. Esme Baker has a gorgeous voice and writes fabulously dark and real lyrics that address issues of mental health and recovery, death, grief, one night stands, ageing, settling down and learning how and when to end a relationship. This is a band that sounds fresh and relevant.
Review score: 95%
In the promo material that accompanied this release I was saddened to read the following:
As an act devoid of male members, Screech Bats openly recount many instances of their gender standing front and centre stage: “It’s awful – we are not a ‘girl band’ just because none of us have penises. We have been heckled, we’ve been asked “whose girlfriends we are?”, we’ve been groped whilst trying to load in amps and at one particular show, when our bassist was moving her gear, someone shouted “the stripper’s arrived”. In our opinion, the whole industry needs to stop seeing gender as a genre – we need to see a shift towards just listening to the music, not having to consider what it is we have between our legs.”
I quite agree. Gender isn’t a genre. Listen to the music, judge the band on the music not on their chromosomes—and if you don’t like it then don’t listen to it, and if you do then tell others about them.
It saddens me to hear about how many people have been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted. Please look out for one another—help keep those around you safe, and more importantly, treat everyone you meet with the respect you would want them to offer you. We’re all in this life thing together. I just hope we can get better at that. Speaking of getting better…
I kindly received this EP to review from Inception Press, an artist-friendly, UK-based, independent, alternative music publicity and management agency. I didn’t get paid for this review but I do get to the keep the EP. I am not linked to either Screech Bats or Inception Press.