Review : Those Darlins - Screws Get Loose
AvclubWhen Those Darlins released a self-titled debut in 2009, it was easy to write the group off as a too-cute gimmick. A band made up of hard-livin,’ shit-startin,’ and smokin’ hot young ladies playing punked-up country, Those Darlins seemed custom-made for middle-aged male rock critics to eat right up. But Those Darlins actually brought the goods, and the band lived up to its image in concert. Sadly, Screws Get Loose is a serious step backward, ditching the anarchic honky-tonk of old in favor of ho-hum, girly surf pop in the vein of the Dum Dum Girls and Vivian Girls. In the process, Those Darlins have thinned out its sound, traded twang for drone, and lost a lot of charm. The songs, especially “Be Your Bro,” still have the occasional killer one-liner (“I just wanna be your brother / You just want to be my boyfriend / I want to run and play in the dirt with you / You just want to stick it in”), but the old fierceness is gone. Screws Get Loose is a major buzzkill, like finding out a cool acquaintance from the corner bar is a total dud sober....full text
PastemagazineWhether you thought they were a quirky-obnoxious novelty act or a gang of infinitely charming, boots-are-made-for-rockin’ Americana party girls, forget your initial impression of Those Darlins. Because, over the last few years, the band has become the spirit of rock ’n’ roll incarnate — a slightly older, wiser, modern-day Southern-garage version of The Runaways. “Why should the boys have all the fun?” their mere presence seems to shout. “We will out-drink, out-party and out-rock all of you!” And anyone who’s witnessed the runaway-train-wreck amphetamine cattle prod of their live performances knows they take this fearless, let-it-ride approach with them on stage every night.
But, unlike The Runaways, Those Darlins weren’t assembled by some hotshot producer looking to cash in. No, this band was their brainchild — and a wild one, too. And, to their credit, they get better every time they come around, having made enormous strides as both players and songwriters since their self-titled 2009 debut.
So it’s no surprise that Screws Get Loose is a major creative breakthrough for the Murfreesboro, Tenn.-based Darlins. It seems their time on the road with bands like Deer Tick, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears and (especially) Gentleman Jesse has expanded their musical horizons, shedding any last hint of novelty-act baggage and drawing out the accomplished artists that had always been lurking within.
The album-opening title track, an alternately desperate/shrugging ode to holding it together on the road, is an instant garage/power-pop classic that would make everyone from Iggy Pop to the Apples in Stereo to King Tuff proud. With its unforgettable melody, chiming strums, erratic detuned anti-guitar solo and a bell part that channels the hypnotic piano lick from The Stooges’ “Gimme Danger,” “Screw Get Loose” is a perfect statement of purpose, kicking off an album that redefines what Jessi, Nikki and Kelley Darlin and their drummer Linwood Regensburg are capable of....full text
PitchforkTennessee quartet Those Darlins started out as a trio-- three young women named Jessi, Kelley, and Nikki (who've all assumed the stage surname Darlin) on guitar, bass, and ukelele-- doing old-timey country music covers with clog-dancing percussion. Eventually they started writing their own songs and found an actual drummer for a self-titled 2009 debut-- a kitschy but pretty terrific album of ramshackle country and rock'n'noll suffused with punk energy and a healthy dose of "Hee Haw" humor. They sang about being proud white trash, getting drunk in the early afternoon, trying to avoid DUIs, and coming home at night soused and hungry enough to eat an entire chicken. They convinced you they were bad, wild girls, but they also lovingly covered the Carter Family and wrote a sad, beautiful song threatening any man who'd be mean to their mamas. Some of it was lightweight fare, and often hokey, but Those Darlins' debut was also a hell of a lot of fun.
It's understandable that the Darlins would want to expand beyond this classic country sensibility, and maybe scale back the yuks a bit too. Their debut was a musically slapdash affair, so it also makes sense that they'd want to grow their sound into something more resonant and nuanced. There's no reason to believe Those Darlins aren't capable of accomplishing this, but unfortunately their sophomore effort, Screws Get Loose, is a quintessential growing-pains document.
Screws Get Loose actually picks up right where the debut left off; the opening title cut is bratty and clever, and the succeeding first single is even better: "Be Your Bro" is a fun but unmistakably pointed tune about the headache of wanting to be friends with a boy without things getting sexual. For the third song, "Let U Down", drummer Linwood Regensburg takes his first lead vocal, and while he's hardly the sole culprit for what follows, his showcase augurs a bad turn for the album.
From here on out, Screws Get Loose starts sounding like the work of a retro-pop outfit, treading the same ground covered by the Raveonettes, the Donnas, and recent revivalist indie heroes Dum Dum Girls and Vivian Girls. Yet where, say, Dum Dum Girls' gauzy sound cultivates mystery, memory, and obscure longing, Those Darlins get bogged down by their increased attention to musical texture on "Mystic Mind", "Tina Said", and "Bumd". It doesn't help that these songs lack any compelling lyrics either. On the positive side of the ledger, "Boy" captures a wonderfully light, pure pop feel, while "$" and "Fatty Needs a Fix" recreate some of the wit of the debut, albeit with less enjoyable hooks. I won't say Those Darlins necessarily ought to return to their roots; they might be entirely capable of doing something great with whatever direction they choose to take. Still, that doesn't change the fact that twangy wisecracks suit them damn well....full text
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