Music Reviews
Easy Pain

Young Widows Easy Pain

(Temporary Residence) Rating - 5/10

There’s a well-worn piece of pop-psychology that would have us believe that while women are more likely to display their emotions, men tend to replace emotional behaviour with aggression. It’s on this basis that one would classify a band like Young Widows as masculine music: heavily downtuned guitars distorted way beyond the point where you hear the pluck of a string, driving percussion produced to sound more like objects being kicked than a drum kit. The difference is they slow their songs right down, sometimes to a plodding 60bpm (Bird Feeder), without relinquishing the propulsion of each crushing downstrum. Most introductory noodling or strategic pace-changers are pretty much stripped away, if not shoulder-barged out, a la Gift of Failure’s introductory pattern of harmonics, crushed in one gut-punching fortissimo.

Their secret weapon is Evan Patterson’s vocal delivery: his most climactic lines sound like the point in a heated argument where composure slips, as if exposing that aggression as facade. Sometimes his syllables leap out like he is lost for words – Kerosene Girl is the finest display of his range; he stutters the title like an accusation, and at one point sounds like the force has been knocked out of him, half-whispering: “I don’t feel right / I don’t know you / You don’t know me…” But honestly, it’s difficult to get past the boorish pseudo-sexism of a song unironically named Kerosene Girl – it could’ve been a Guns N' Roses or Mötley Crüe title. There have been far more malignant cock-rock clichés, but slowed down and monsterised, their sentiments are tedious.

Young Widows say more with their occasional guitar solos – particularly the sprawling breakdown on opening track Godman, which leaps frantically between notes: huge tonal gaps, no footholds. There’s another rare break into the upper register on Bird Feeder, its sliding contours all but obliterated by fuzz. These solos, while disappointingly sporadic, are great at tipping already unhinged songs further over the brink; listening to them, I marvelled at how much more articulately these solos conveyed their themes than Easy Pain’s lyrical missteps. The parallels with Queens of the Stone Age are mounting: the muscular riffs, aggressive yet yelping vocals, and tellingly, their eloquence with timbre above lyrical imagery.

There remains Young Widows’ bullish insistence that a burly guitar tone and drummer Jeremy McMonigle’s motorised pummelling is better than a structural leap or a pause to shore up tension. Lesser bands in this vein might spend a whole record flexing their muscles; Young Widows are cleverer than that, but I found their approach exhausting towards the end – particularly because some of the record’s adventurousness dries up in the second half. It’s an album focused on a very limited range of moods, and inhabits that tone very well, but ultimately does little to justify sticking around.