Now available on sonaBLAST! Records.
Many have described the Louisville duo GRLWood in terms of riot grrrl, and certainly guitarist Rej Forester’s singsong-to-scream vocal stylings against dissonance surf rock riffs lend to that comparison, it would sell their incredibly unique sound short to pigeonhole them into a certain sound or the aesthetic trappings that come with the riot grrrl name. Daddy, their debut album, invokes the B-52s as much as Bratmobile — a sardonic quality you can dance to as much as you can scream along with.
What stood out to me throughout Daddy were the ways GRLWood plays with tone and tempo in their songs. “I’m Yer Dad” leads off with a soft repeating of the phrase, while the drums and staccato guitar build the tension until the vocals reach a frenzy, bouncing from a scream back to the initial singsong cadence. The lyrics play off masculine tropes, mocking man caves and muscle cars alike from the perspective of the dad in question. The following track, “Nice Guy,” follows this pattern of parody as well. In this way, Forester embodies these incredibly loathsome kinds of men, and turns their catchphrases “all of the bad guys get all of the good girls / and I just don’t understand why they won’t fuck me” into weapons against them, skewering them on their own rhetoric.
On “Clean,” Forester begs the questions “who you gettin’ clean for?” She repeats it several times over before the track comes to a head in an earth-movingly volatile chorus, before dropping back to the gentler tempo of the first verse with a soft “woah oh". All of the songs seem to follow some variation on this; vacillating wildly between softer dissonant moments and then escalating all at once into something explosive, almost manic, and undeniably powerful.
There’s an overall hectic feeling to Daddy. The frenzied energy of trying to capture the anger and frustration of existing as a queer person is palpable in not only every scream, but in all of the subtle tongue in cheek quips as well.
Whether the frustration expressed is from trying to get a girl you’re pining over to dump her loser boyfriend (“Bisexual”), or a sarcastic response to the ignorance we’re bombarded with every day from those outside the community (“Vaccines Made Me Gay”), GRLWood delivers rage in a way that is attractive without seeming pandering or too polished up. It’s not contrived anger, it’s so deeply real and deeply felt. Listening to this album, it’s easy to forget that this band only has two members — they deliver an all encompassing sound, larger than life in order to best express all of the intricacies dealt with in the subject matter.
Daddy is an incredible album for someone who wants more rage in their pop music, or who doesn’t want to compromise melody or fun when they seek out heavier queer musicians. As a debut, it’s explosive, it simply does not sound like anything else right now and there’s no doubt that GRLWood is on the precipice of something truly great.