Marissa Paternoster - Peace Meter (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Marissa Paternoster

Peace Meter (2021)

Don Giovanni

Peace Meter is Marissa Paternoster’s “Stevie Nicks moment.” If we refer back to the one-two punch of Bella Donna and The Wild Heart, Stevie kicked out two mega-hit albums that somehow jumped between dance music and singer-songwriter folk all while still being in one of the biggest bands in the world at the time. Paternoster is doing a similar thing here, except replace “biggest” with “best.” (Also, hopefully we can assume that the famed Fleetwood Mac inner-turmoil and bandmembers-getting-freaky is absent as well). All of that is to say, Paternoster has found a magical, cosmic pattern.

Peace Meter is markedly different that Screaming Females. While Paternoster shreds like a maniac on the guitar and howls in the Screamles (as aided by the equally ass kicking Jarret D and King Mike), here, she’s on more of a “stand Back” and “After the Glitter fades” vibe- though if you reference Paternoster’s previous NOUN lps, the change up isn’t quite so surprising. Here, Paternoster bases her sound on an 80s style electronic synth and then adds some ghostly tones in the background. The robotic screeching heard in the back of “Waste” could have come from a Chrome record. After that, she layers her more soulful vocals on the top, which either ironically or purposefully seem to borrow from church choir music… as does goth, too.

The result is what appears to be a deeply moving, deeply personal record. With the Screamales last record, Paternoster made it a point to say that all at Once was NOT a personal record, but was rather, commentary on external issues. For instance, the killer “Glass House” track from that album sort of sounded like it was about an oppressive relationship, but it was actually about hoe Facebook sucks- go and listen again. Yet, every tune here sounds like it’s a break up lament or a “I love you more than existence can handle” type jam. “Running,” which, not to be overbearing, has a sort of Stevie Nicksian electric rumble on the bottom while Paternoster calls out like a Greek muse: “Let me be the one you come running to…” Yet, on the flipside, “I lost you”, which paradoxically is the album’s monster jam, it’s all about the end of a relationship, as spoken in pragmatic terms. I promise this is the last time I bring up the Witchy Queen here, but the tune, quite admirably, has the same sort of propulsive power and soul moving jolt as “Stand Back.” Any old sap can write a gut wrenching ode set to a barely there acoustic guitar, but only Stevie Nicks can do it to a charging synth ram… except Paternoster can do it, too. You probably can’t, sorry. I can’t either.

Yet, Paternoster seems to then bolt on additional heaviness that really does verge near goth/This Mortal Coil territory. “White” dove juggles loops and acoustic plucking while Paternoster laments, “your bed is soaked in blood.” This is Peter Murphy territory, here, people. Likewise, “Black Hole” has a riff so good and creepy that Daniel Ash should pay Paternoster $25,000 so he can use it for the Bauhaus reunion shows. This kind of strange mystery is wrapped throughout the album. Paternoster likes to cloak meaning in abstract metaphor that appears to be taken from an earthly example and the obfuscated through omission or rewarping. These little puzzles are dripped throughout the album. Here’s another- the album is called Peace Meter, right? The only lyrics provided in the liner notes are to the song “Peace Meter.” The kicker? The song “Peace Meter” isn’t on the album.

It is true that I have been accused of deifying Paternoster (and the rest of the Screamales Crew) too much. Really, she is just a very short person that is really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, good at singing and playing the guitar. But then, here, there’s not that much guitar on this album and it’s STILL really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, good. So, maybe my beatification isn’t so misplaced. People probably thought Moses was mad when he said God was speaking to him, too.