The new Male Gaze album, Miss Taken, out tomorrow on Castle Face Records, is a great big beast of a record. Sinister in moments both loud and soft, it is a superb release that does one or two things so well that the relative sameness of some of this can be forgiven.
The blurb in the press material from Henry Rollins didn't grab me -- the guy's admitted good taste has been beyond dispute; his post-Black Flag career, or his choice in film roles, less so -- but one listen to opener "Keep Your Kools" did. Supple and surging in the fashion of early Queens of the Stone Age (for lack of a better, more apt comparison point), the track sets the pace for Miss Taken. The second track here, however, is what blew me away. "Wha Do Wha Do" pounds and rawks in a smart way, like Shriekback on a metal kick, or an early Smashing Pumpkins single minus the bullshit naff-cock rock and Corgan ego preening. Superb. Tracks like "Didn't" roar with the same sense of potential subsumed in early Soundgarden recordings, here given more of a sleek sheen, while the quieter "Tell Me How It Is" works up a rough melodicism that suggests nothing so much as a radio-friendly Big Black. Elsewhere, "If You Were My Girl" recalls Devo circa Freedom of Choice trying to do a metal number -- (Soundgarden's cover of "Girl U Want" is worth remembering here) -- while the more interesting "African Ripoff" marries a Fall-like sense of abandon with a Cream-worthy riff that the band rides into oblivion. The closing title cut strikes a mournful note, the breather after a largely hyperventilating record.
At their most successful, like when they sound like they are attempting to somehow punish either the sound engineers or their instruments, the guys in Male Gaze have crafted something here that bridges the worlds of post-punk and hardcore. The majority of Miss Taken is superbly realized and if the band is more or less a one-trick pony, it's a helluva trick. Turn up the volume when you spin this one, folks!
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