KASMs - Spayed (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Spayed (2009)


On their full-length debut Spayed, UK no wave act KASMs strike a midpoint between Bikini Kill's anger and alienation and Le Tigre's dance-centric revelry. Either way, frontwoman Rachel Mary Callaghan sounds a bit like Kathleen Hanna, and that's awesome. Not that Kasms fit perfectly under the riot grrrl label. The band calls their style "shriekbeat," which I'm guessing is supposed to be deathrock without the campy sci-fi/horror bent. The band retains that style's sense of atmosphere, drone and echo, plus a passing reference to surf rock rhythms here and there.

The band's overall sound owes just as much to the recording techniques employed by guitarist and former Test Icicles member Rory Brattwell's recording sensibilities. Dude prefers quick ‘n' dirty live takes on a reel-to-reel tape machine, resulting in an alluring haze that some shoegaze bands spend at least twice as much to achieve. KASMs are at their best in the murkiest depths, something that apparently applies to their live shows. Callaghan has been known to start a fight or two or three.

But fistfights are for jocko homos. What I'm interested in are hooks, and Spayed sinks in its best right away with album opener "Male Bonding." Swirling dissonance quickly cuts to a rollicking drumbeat, needling guitars and Callaghan's infectious vocals. Rock ‘n' roll was born from sexual come-ons (it's in the name), and Callaghan's cool insistence that she "dance with your dad" balances the sexual and the predatory from note to note.

It's obvious why "Male Bonding" ended up as a single, though it does set up track two, "Insects," for a disappointing fall, if only initially. See, "Male Bonding" is "the hit." It's the danciest, catchiest, bestest song. So when "Insects" reveals Spayed's real M.O. -- dark and seductive and reminiscent of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks and maybe even mid-period Pretty Girls Make Graves -- it's kind of a sucker punch. But it's still good, just in a different way. What follows is arty, angular anger.

Despite doubling as a collection of early singles ("Taxidermy," "Bone You") Spayed comes off remarkably solid throughout. It boasts 12 tracks in 32 minutes, and every single one is a rabble-rousing lo-fi mini-masterpiece. So, for those of you wishing for a new New Romance AND a new Pretty on the Inside, here's a compromise. Ignore the title; this one's got balls.