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Holy Hell
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  • Recording information: The Hunt Studio (2009).
  • At 26 minutes in length, Screaming Females guitarist Marissa Paternoster's solo effort is an "album" only in the most formal sense. But given the gleeful anarchy of her sound, the length feels just about right. Recording under the name Noun, Paternoster plays most instruments herself (there are several guest musicians helping out) and writes all the songs, which are all over the place. The album opens with the subdued, weird, and not terribly interesting "Black Lamb," and then explodes with "Outerspace," a full-on rock & roll freakout whose scrappy surface fails to disguise the serious songcraft that underlies its gritty top layer. Here Paternoster's voice starts evoking Ari Up at her full-throated punkiest, and that comparison continues to apply throughout the remainder of the album. "Old Friends" gets weird again, but also incorporates subtle but tenacious melodic hooks; "Wrong Things" hints at a certain bluesiness, and "Pearly Gates" combines a compressed, punky vocal sound with Wall-of-Garbage production quality to very nice effect. But the low points do get pretty low, as is very often the case with first solo projects. "Call Earth" is both too much (self-indulgence) and not enough (structure and melody), and although "So Rough" does eventually get over on its merits as a song, you can bet money it would have been every bit as effective if the guitars had been tuned prior to recording. Fans of Screaming Females will likely find much to enjoy here, and newcomers to Marissa Paternoster will also have quite a bit of fun, but the fun might be more sporadic for them. ~ Rick Anderson
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