October 5, 2010
New Music: Women - Public Strain
Women's 2008 self-titled debut staged a battle between a discomforting wash of static/fuzz/feedback and the sort of pop gems most indie artists can only dream about. Women was a brilliant record, the kind that reaffirmed one's faith in indie rock and other outmoded genres. Here was a new paradigm, here was a model to follow; and it didn't hurt that it was produced by King Midas himself (aka Chad VanGaalen).
Women's sophomore album, Public Strain, carries a lot of the same momentum that made Women so successful. For one thing, Chad's back, and at this point I don't think Women's albums would be near as good without him at the helm. But the apparent conflict between noise and melody is much more understated on Public Strain; by consequence, the songs seem more organic and the result is a more cohesive album. Women remains great for those short punches of crystaline Beach Boys melodies set against the album's hostile background. Those beautiful moments still break through Public Strain (they're scattered through a song like "Eyesore," see below), but this time those moments remain an integral part of the album's chaos. I don't want to call it a better album, but I will say that Public Strain is winning me over more quickly than Women's debut. Perhaps what's so great about this album is that there is no "Black Rice" for everyone to hide behind. On Public Strain, Women feel more unforgiving, and I think they're better for it.