It seems to me only fitting that I would hate Public Strain
on my first few encounters. It seemed too real, like listening to this was going to ruin my innocence brutally and after it was finished, silently walk away like I didn't matter. It was a shock at first, to hear something so visceral that I would start to wonder if in fact Women were attacking me on some level, songs written to bruise me. After all, these aren't friendly songs, this isn't a friendly record. Public Strain
is a war, fleshed out over 11 dissonant tracks that strike first, either waiting for a counter-attack with a "bring it on" or standing over you victorious over your submission. It holds no punches, each abrasive note slices like shark teeth, completely disregarding the listener as if to say "Go on, I dare you to like this". It's this bare-bones rebelliousness, this against-the-grain manner that ultimately attracts me to Public Strain
. It's an indie album made by people who most likely hate indie, the evil step child of the vague genre, shunned and feared, but all the more powerful for it.
And behind that power lies some truly great songs, only noticeable after I gave in to its icy demeanor. "Can't You See" is a hazy, ethereal path, mirroring Public Strain's
ghost of an album cover. It's a somewhat warm opening statement, a winter day that dissolves into a blizzard as "Heat Distraction" jangles along, hopeless. "Drag Open" shears and grates through its awesome first half only to implode on itself in the wonderfully maniacal second half. Women have a knack for making something out of nothing, for making a cacophonous song turn somehow welcoming and even catchy. There's an aura to Public Strain
, one that is as undefinable as its foggy cover. There is a heart here, but it's cold and lonely, beating only to stay alive.
I wonder if this album is the reason Women decided to break up, like this was their final statement, meaning nothing, only to fade away into the shadows. It gives Public Strain
a sense of mystique, a glimpse into what music could be, if people just cared less.