Please don’t tell me how good a Sleater-Kinney album is in 2015. This isn’t supposed to be some regenerative proclamation in a new year of music. It is a great album. But Sleater-Kinney was better in another time. As much as I play it, it’s not an album that makes me feel like I do when I listen to the debut from the Catalonia teen misfits of Mourn. The quartet have life, meaning, relevance, and yes, in a obtuse amalgamation of chords, riffs, and attitudes, they sound exactly like the ’90s.
Mourn’s core, Jazz Rodriguez Bueno and Carla Perez Vaz, make no apologies for their love for and inspiration from PJ Harvey. “Your Brain Is Made of Candy,” which starts the record, has the exact timbre of Rid of Me, but that same vulnerable to feral intensity is strictly channeled forward, not back. When Bueno decries, “I will do an intervention, while you’re not paying attention,” there’s a grown singularity to her voice, a sense that she’s struck a volatile nerve that will takes years to heal.
In describing it, the band’s importer, Captured Tracks, has placed an emphasis on the album’s “lightning in a bottle” aura, and though it was recorded in a thrifty 48-hour session, it sounds like a band who has honed its chops and is now just plying the gritty textures and muscular dynamism of the songs. Every minute is crucial and teeming with emotional heft. Again, there are tons of references thrown their way—the Sleater Kinney prickly guitar attack, the metal-on-metal abrasiveness of Shellac on “Misery Factory,” the punch-to-the-neck of Bikini Kill—which suggests they are simply cutting their teeth. But a song as ephemerally vital as first single “Otitis” is an undeniable statement of purpose.
The smell of teen spirit and the learned maturity of their playing is in stunning balance. In fact, it’s records like this that are (hopefully) transformative for the next (and next) generation. It’s simply one of the most exciting debuts since, well, the last time punk, or the aesthetic sonic ideal of punk, was put to an existential test. That was Iceage’s still raging New Brigade. The power is in the attitude and a simple juxtaposition of the youth zeitgeist. Mourn have that “feel.” It all leads to the dragonslayer quiet-loud-louder thump of the finale “Silver Gold” and its possessed refrain of “Deliver me from heaven. Do it, it won’t hurt.” Yes, this is a revolution, or at least the next best thing.