Words: Adam Grimord-Isham
The Scissor Girls were dead when I first heard them, but they seemed alive. Their discordant grooves, theatrics, and ranting vocals were present in the wonderful Erase Errata and lesser bands (including my own Hustler White) flying the no wave flag in the early 00’s(a kind of underbelly of the magazine photoshoot postpunk dance punk, garage revival). I considered them my favorite band then for as much as what they represented as the music.
A snapshot of a lost scene in the nineties when legends could be born. All I knew of them then was the music and a couple of images. They were from the rotten collapsed side of Chicago, the dark alleys and sewers of its glimmering capitalist monoliths. The raccoon masked denizens of a shadowy underworld.
Their later albums that impacted me had an almost collage effect, with a swirl of throbbing bass, sharp guitar skronk and noise blasts, slathered synths(and bass through synth), trumpets blurts, and endlessly ranting vocals by Azita all held to a groove by Heather’s drums. This demo with original guitarist Sue Anne feels starker, more driven, and more isolated. They haven’t let the cluttered noise of their urban underground in yet.
Everything bounces off each other in clear but angular lines, guitar slashes, bass bounces or builds stilted constructions, while the drums keep it locked. Azita’s opaque rants are delivered in her elastic voice in a way that seems to resonate with her excellent but very different solo work.
These seem like sketches in pen to be filled out later in collage form. But there’s a clarity, singularity, and sadness to them. And alternately a more clear communication with some postpunk forebears that later work obscured, maybe even some Joy Division alongside obvious touchstones of The Fall, God is my Copilot, and No New York. Hopefully this release brings some new attention to this very vital band and the art they did so long ago, in a world so changed.
Available from Jabs the excellent new label from Ethan Swan of the great bands Emergency and Silk Flowers, who’s old label released one of my favorite albums, The Map by Meltdown (kind of the DC answer to the Scissor Girls). The Scissor Girls are dead, but here’s their birth. Their first things for you to hear.