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Mrs. Piss

Words: Steve Belcher

The piss tape dropped, but it was not the one we had expected. 2020’s Mrs. Piss is a collaboration between Chelsea Wolfe and Jess Gowrie. The album opens with a narration, an ideation of anxieties and death wishes, the sort of strange unpleasantness a neurotic finds in the back of their mind in an aisle of knives. Under its vows pulls and tugs an urge to trespass safer judgement and make one’s own fears real.

Downer surrounded by uppers starts with a swirling guitar riff, and becomes a punk maelstrom with a catchy chorus and Jess Gowrie’s drumming providing a breakneck pace.

Knelt trudges along slowly with a heavy doom atmosphere, The lurching rhythm matches very well with the lyrics, which reads either like the experience of a high, or a low, depending on how one hears its seasick heaving.

Nobody Wants To Party With Us opens with a soliloquy over pulsating synthesizers, before breaking into intense drumming. Probably the only part I dislike sonically about this album is the sudden key change to the lyrics, but props to the line “I think too much, I drink too much, I fuck too hard. Yeah I got you there” with the last bit as a sort of brag, bravo, I also like the way that the track ends in a sort of vampiric hissing, but this almost seems like an afterthought.

MBOTWO is pretty straightforward as a rock song, with lines like “I’m a truck driving woman, and I live by the code of the road.” and the Amazonian call of “Mega babes of the wild order.” Though it’s a bit too on the nose for Riot Grrrl fare it does hit its mark, because what does anyone like more than a hard rocking, hard living woman. We get the point.

You took everything starts with a serpentine riff, and a monologue that is dripping with venom that creates the tension released by its chorus, which mixes clean and harsh vocals in the fashion of both angel and demon. Lyrically, the song is a searing indictment of patriarchy, both in general and possibly more personal, Sonically it’s one of my favorites, along with Self-Surgery.

The title track, Self-Surgery opens with howling feedback and unleashes several raw questions. Chelsea’s vocal delivery in this part is more hurried and frayed, with more of a rock and roll sort of urgency in her voice and less coddling of her vocal chords, but it’s the ending chorus here that is really one of the strongest vocal performances I’ve ever heard her do on any record, where it seems her voice is strained to its limits.

The final track, the track for which the band is eponymously labeled, starts off with the taunting line “you can’t entertain us, from the bottom of a well” then launches into several invectives over Jess Gowrie’s drumming. I think one of my favorite parts of it is the way that lines like “you’re never going to take it from me” are hissed into the microphone, though the lines about wading through shit and piss feel as if they’re used for lack of more illustrative lyrics.

Overall, I enjoyed the album, It occupies this weird space that is vaguely reminiscent of the sort of Washington bands that I listened to growing up, but unlike a lot of uninspired shit as of late it doesn’t try to straight up imitate it to the letter. My initial first impression of the album was that the whole production style reminded me of Wolfe’s Apocalypsis, with her voice being buried in the same sort of reverb she has frequently used. However Jess Gowrie’s influence on this band’s music is much more significant, and it shows in the drumming and the bass and overall style and song structure, The songs are less melodic and feel much more like actual rock songs driven by the rhythm section, there’s a lot of play with dynamics and tempo changes in the songs, As well as the fact that the drumming is recorded very well. Wolfe’s vocal delivery on this album is also different than the albums she releases under her own name, she’s more hoarse, with a rougher edge, frankly I could welcome more of Wolfe’s lycanthropic snarl. My own production criticism is that the reverb could’ve been dialed back since it tends to wash out the coarseness that is necessary for that vocal style to really make an impression. If I had to pin it down to a descriptor, it’s like shoegaze/dreampop like Lush or Curve mixed with a bit of Babes in Toyland, or L7, or Hole, and Melvins. It’s this weird merger of shoegaziness with sludge metal and trashy gutter rock.

With my first listen I was initially skeptical about this album’s lyrics, because especially with the Eponymous track “Mrs. Piss” I felt that the lyrics were more or less a reductionism of punk rock rebellion to a Freudian rebellion against toilet training, I mean if that’s your idea of punk than maybe you should stick with GG Allin, or wear diapers.

However, I eventually warmed up and realized that at least the spirit of the album as a whole very much does capture that genuine sense of rebellion that rock and roll is, there’s a lot of dusty old music critics who say that “rock is dead” because they collect checks on the payroll of the establishment and by writing shit like that they usually tell on themselves and their age with growing out of touch with what actual, real, bleeding and suffering musicians are going through, so I will go against the decadent dinosaurs and stuffy establishment critics and say that this is, without a doubt, a real deal rock and roll album, and rock and roll involves sex and drugs and riffs, and the embracement of all currents of aesthetic that are socially unexpected and forbidden. Everything about this album’s use of grimy instrumentation to its lyrics is a revolt of aesthetic, its statement is that femininity is not to be corralled or contained by our viciously patriarchal society, and for that I am thankful.

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