Boundary pushing records aren’t uncommon in the music industry. Time and time again, young trailblazers create new trends in recording history. However, what happens when a band not only pushes these boundaries, but shatters them to the point where we wonder why they were there in the first place. Rhode Island noise-rock band Daughters did just that on their new album, You Won’t Get What You Want, which released Oct. 26.
Their lineup consists of vocalist and lyricist Alexis Marshall, drummer Jon Syverson, Nicholas Sadler as guitarist and co-producer and Samuel Walker on bass.
Daughter’s style has been evolving since their conception. Originally a bog-standard mathcore act on of their first album, Canada Songs, they evolved over the course of their first run. They took on a post-punkier, noise-rock influenced edge on their follow-up record Hell Songs, before fine-tuning that style on their third record, Daughters. Marshall sang in a clear, bluesy style on that record, while the band has more in common with some of the more dissonant post-punk acts of the ‘80s than their mathcore contemporaries of the 2000s.
However, Daughters broke up at the height of their creativity, mostly due to differences between Sadler and Marshall. This didn’t stop them from reuniting in 2013, and delivering this wild animal of a comeback record in 2018. Any imperfections that were present on the last record have been ironed out through meticulous song-writing and dedicated performances.
Let me say it outright: this album is a behemoth of a record, crushing the listener sonically and emotionally at every turn. Right off the bat, we set the tone with “City Song,” featuring a rough, bassy and electrified synth loop as Syverson hammers in with these unforgiving snare hits and a steady, pulsing double bass kick. Then it crashes all together, becoming even uglier and mechanical; enter double bass triplets from Syverson and cryptic lyrics from Marshall. “This city is an empty glass/Shops are closed/There is nothing/This city is an empty glass.” A minute before the song ends, somehow, someway, the song becomes even more hideous, with guitars wailing like sirens in the background, before closing on an apocalyptic monologue by Marshall.
It needs to be said that the lyrics on this album are God-tier. They’re cryptic but clear. Alien but relatable. Exaggerated yet honest. Marshall’s lyrical focus appears to be what happens when an apparently ordinary person suffers from a full-scale, violent breakdown and the aftermath of that, as well as just dealing with the animalistic side of the brain on a day to day basis. It’s nightmarish, but it hits the nail on the head.
But, I digress. Next comes the off-kilter madness of “Long Road, No Turns,” an off the wall dance-punk track that took a hit of bad meth from the world’s grimiest crack pipe. The guitars and drums swirl in a violent, rhythmic cacophony as the bass cranks out this low, descending chord. Marshall’s lyrics exemplify the primary theme of the album; “Everybody climbs up high then falls real far/A little is all it takes/A little is all it takes.”
Next up is “Satan in the Wait,” which is one of the longer songs on the album, clocking in at seven minutes. A tribal drum beat plays throughout the entire track, while Walker chugs along on his bass. Sadler plays some uplifting guitar chords on the chorus, giving the song a sense of hope oddly enough. However, this is proven false by the lyrics, with constant references to “bodies opening up,” and the days all blending together in the outro.
The band goes back to its mathcore roots with the tracks “Flammable Man” and “The Lords Song.” But, they still infuse their new musical sensibilities into them. The first song is about a man rambling about how paranoid he’s become, all the while Sadler cranks out these cycling, circular guitar screeches and Syverson is freaking out on the drums, acting as a dissonant wall of rhythm.
The second song remains musically consistent, but Sadler’s guitars take on the duty of being this ugly wall of sound that drenches the song. He includes a distinct, mechanical riff that amazes me every time I hear it.
Next, we get “Less Sex,” unarguably the band’s poppiest track. There are these sparse, Nine Inch Nails style drum beats and vocals with the bass playing alongside them, as well as occasional ethereal guitar walls chiming in, symbolizing the narrators conflicted mental state. The narrator is a sex addict, and he lets this addiction seep into every aspect of his life, before giving it “complete control.” The song ends abruptly, perhaps alluding to the death of who he once was and the birth of his addled, new self.
“Daughter” is next, and its bluesey and sinister to its core. The song is about— well, I’m not sure what it’s about. It could be about some kind of sour love between a couple, but that’s just speculation. It’s wrapped in metaphor, which makes it more intriguing. This track is definitely the most melodic, with these sparkling keys providing some levity and brightness to this dark, dreary track. However, just like on “Satan in the Wait,” this is a lie. The keys stop and the song ends on a cold repetition of “Knowing they’ll die here or there,” then finishing short on “Knowing they’ll die.”
“The Reason They Hate Me” is the most straightforward rock track on the album, and is also the most humorous. Marshall is railing against an annoying music critic, demanding him not to tell him and the rest of the band how to do their jobs, and taunting him with the hilarious line, “Maybe the sun waits for you to be shown what to do.” Even then, despite being the most straightforward track, Sadler still cranks out a cybernetic guitar riff, while Walker is riffing out some of his best basslines on the record.
Next is “Ocean Song,” which appears to be a call back to “Flammable Man,” in regards to the theme of paranoia. Our narrator tells the tale of suburban, breadwinning father Paul snapping and fleeing his home as everything around his life subtly goes wrong; he faces broken garage doors, unkempt lawns and hedges and the growing darkness of the days. As he’s fleeing his unfulfilling life, Marshall ends the song on a bittersweet note saying that Paul is leaving, “To know, to see for himself/If there is an ocean beyond the waves, beyond the waves.” Paul wants to see what is beyond the American Dream, but the instrumentation indicates that it’s going to be a hard, scary journey. A harsh drone from Sadler’s guitar ends the song.
The album reaches its end with “Guest House,” being solely driven by harsh rhythm from all fronts of the band. Marshall is taking the perspective of a home invader, be it mental or physical, who’s “been knocking and knocking and knocking and knocking,” demanding entry. We end the song and the album on these mournful, synthesized trumpents, implying that our home invader has successfully broken in and wreaked havoc on the inside.
On every level, this album has no weaknesses. The lyricism packs raw, emotional depth and weight while never being overt. The instrumentation is superb; Daughters are ahead of the curve in terms of talent and technical ability. Their willingness to experiment and play with texture, noise and genre conventions is without a doubt, their defining trait. With all this, Daughters put themselves at the head of the pack of other noise rock groups.
This album isn’t for everyone. It’s harsh, loud, upsetting, unyielding and incredibly ugly. However, none of this stops it from being the best noise-rock album to drop in a long time, and just being a great album in general. I thought Death Grips’ Year of the Snitch was going be the album of year, hands down, but unless something truly amazing drops within these next two months, then this is it.