Daughters - You Won't Get What You Want (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


You Won't Get What You Want (2018)


Daughters have never really been a bad band, mind you. But still, this is shocking.

The Providence, Rhode Island act drew a line in the sand with their first full-length, 2003’s Canada Songs. It comprised ten minute-long bursts of violent, trebly and spastic grindcore with ridiculous song titles which were pretty indicative of the era. They were from the oddball art space noise and punk scene of their city, and finding peers on the national subculture circuit was probably tough, though they did tour with the Blood Brothers and released Canada Songs on the same label as Circle Takes the Square. Appropriately, they harkened back to their PVD forefathers Arab on Radar with their next album, Hell Songs, more or less retaining their musical base but with frontman Alexis Marshall foregoing his shriek in favor of a more slurred drawl. (I wasn’t totally fond of this new combination.) On the self-titled followup, they again altered their approach from top to bottom, adding elements of noise rock, dance music and metallic hardcore with Marshall going an even more demented, Devo-esque route for arguably their best album to date at that point. (I was much more fond of that change.) Shortly before Daughters’ release, however, the band had essentially broken up in secret, and didn’t play any shows in support of the album.

While on tour with his next band, Fucking Invincible, Marshall was constantly asked about Daughters by fans. He got them back together for some shows, which were well-received. They subsequently recorded new material in 2014, but scrapped all the results. Several more starts and stops in the studio, and finally, at some point, they’d completed You Won’t Get What You Want. And, holy shit: It’s fantastic.

Daughters’ career-long, headfirst exploration into true weirdo music culminates in something special on You Won’t Get What You Want. It’s a noise rock record if you want to be lazy about it -- I guess -- but there’s so much more going on here than even upper-echelon Jesus Lizard. It’s dark, twisted, destructive, and at times deeply engrossing. There’s shades of subtle industrial; Liars’ abrasive and unsettling, experimental noise and art punk movements ca. They Were Wrong, So We Drowned; Pissed Jeans’ misanthropic daily life sarcasm; and certainly the Birthday Party’s inventive, gothic post-punk soundscapes.

It’s a challenging album from the get, with nearly six-minute-long opener “City Song” commencing with abrasive fuzz reverberations, and when Marshall finally comes in muttering about how the city’s an empty glass, pulsating percussion fills make it sound like the speakers are blown out. The Liars comp feels apt on this one. Its succeeding track “Long Road, No Turn” wields a maddening energy along with the dizzying guitar push-and-pull of their early material, hints of which also infect the quick-hitting “The Flammable Man”. That song’s companion piece, “The Lords Song” gives the record a sudden jolt of uptempo energy, and it’s probably the closest thing to traditional hardcore one is going to get here -- which still isn’t very close, and is totally awesome for it nonetheless.

Standout “Satan in the Wait” comes up early on the album, and it might be Daughters’ best song to date. It turns on a dime from these broiling verses with damaged siren sounds to a stunning, chiming chorus Tears for Fears might conjure up in an alternate universe. It paints a sardonically optimistic view of a world terrorized by hate and extremism, soundtracking a rather bleak sentiment with a twinkle that is unexpectedly, achingly pretty. And it is so, so good.

One hears other throwbacks to that violent, almost creaking guitar tone the band developed early in their formation on “Daughter” and “The Reason They Hate Me” as well, but otherwise the former is pretty brooding and menacing, and it still looks forward, with a bridge that sounds lifted from a John Carpenter soundtrack. The latter uses it to complement a deranged dance beat. The most aggressive and acerbic track on the album is closer “Guest House”, which ends with a programmed string section of sorts.

Lyrically, Marshall tackles all sorts of sore subjects, from sex to human indecency to urban living, but in refreshing ways. He puts great spins on old clichés, for one thing. On the aforementioned “Long Road, No Turn”, he posits an inspiring reversal of the grass always being greener: “Ain’t it funny how it works? Someone’s always got it worse.” You can practically see the smirk on his face when he remarks “Maybe the sun waits for you to be sure what to do” for one of the more shade-throwing hooks of 2018 on “The Reason They Hate Me“.

Prior to this album, Daughters were a decidedly divisive band, and that was understandable. Pushing them to even the casual punk or hardcore fan was a hard sell. Hell, this record probably isn’t much different in that sense, but it is just such a cut above everything they’ve done that it warrants a listen from anyone into fearless and challenging, yet still melodic, experimental rock. It's their finest work, and probably this year's best rock album.