Scowl - How Flowers Grow (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


How Flowers Grow (2021)


Flowers are nice and pretty and brighten out day and they are also quietly engaged in non-stop violent combat to ensure survival. Any horticulturalist will tell you, underground, roots race to grab up space, often strangling other plants out of resources. They emit faux-pheromones to distract bees and other carriers away from the competition. Many of them literally grow claws to fuck up anything that might come along and try to uproot them. Some of them have even developed mouths full of acid which they use to destroy predators and in turn, dissolve those predators into sustenance. That is to say, flowers are beautiful, but they had to go through hell to get there.

And that’s the core thesis of Scowl’s debut album, How Flowers Grow. Throughout the compact 15-minute release, singer Kat Moss details conflict and the hard times with a growl that sits somewhere between Ross of Ceremony and Jerry A of Poison Idea. But, whereas many other singers would use this platform as a way to express “look how damaged I am!” Moss flips the script. While she doesn’t acknowledge that said troubles and conflicts were “good,” she acknowledges that “learning how to let go of control, this is how flowers grow” near the end of the record.

Throughout the release, Moss makes two direct choices which is what gives the album such a snarled attack. First, she rarely, if ever, uses refrains, instead option to tear through the 90 second tracks in a fever dream. Each track reads like a sort of declaration, or if not that, then a testimony. That is, there’s so much emotion blasting out here, there’s no time to bend it around a jingle-refrain. What is remarkable is that while the band doesn’t rely on standard vocal structure, Moss breaks her words into a percussive cadence so that it feels like some sort of circular war dance rhythm, even though these tunes are linear. And, on top of that, often, Moss is strikingly literal. This isn’t an album where someone says “the clouds dropped rain on my ultimate horizon of tranquility.” Rather, Moss says directly, “I’m gonna tear you apparat, can’t you fucking see?!” All right! Just as there’s no time to fashion of plastic refrain, there’s no time for academic style rosy paintings. This is music from the heart, no time for analysis.

Of course, a big part of this urgency comes from the band. Guitarist Malachai Greene favors riffs that call back to the era of classic hardcore punk, but are presented in a modern hardcore style. Just as titans like Paint it Black and Ceremony would take a crust punk tone and then uncurl riffs that sometimes repeated and sometimes just charged forward in a shamble, Greene does that too. Even though the album is only about a quarter hour, I’d say there’s at least 40 twists and turns here. That’s a lot of neck snapping, and it’s a big part of why the album is so dense.

And even in there is the twist. Just when the album seems like it will be a trashing, lyrically direct hardcore charger, the band diverges. Centerpiece “Seeds to Sow” snaps into 90s alt-rock territory (think Sonic Youth or Pixies, not the radio rock stuff) where Moss actually sings and a X-Ray Spex sax wails in the back. And just as I said that the band was strikingly literal, here, they are strictly metaphorical. One gets the impression the band laid down their debut at the exact right time… they’ve mastered their hardcore style and are applying items from a different galaxy to their own base. That’s the way to do it and here’s why- did you know that the daisy, over millions of years, adapted its bud to actually be dozens or hundreds flowers that are tightly packed together and not just one bud like other plants? The reason was so that the flower was exponentially more likely to survive times of blight compared to the single-flower bud plants. Many of those plants went extinct but the daisy is till here. The message being, evolve to flourish, but also, evolve or die.