Album Review: SHARPTOOTH Clever Girl
After the election of Trump, many music fans across metal and punk took to numerous forums to state that the oncoming barrage of bigotry and violence would inspire a new wave of politically fueled music. In times of great distress, we have seen bands and artists come together in protest against cruelty and injustice. One of the first major political releases of this year was that of Stray From The Path (and in particular their song “Goodnight Alt-Right"). We’ve even gotten a massive compilation entitled Grind Against Trump, featuring a variety of bands like WVRM, Cloud Rat, and Vermin Womb (100% of the Bandcamp sales will be donated to the Southern Poverty Law Center). And, now as we come closer to the end of 2017, we have Sharptooth, and their debut record Clever Girl (Pure Noise). We recently covered the band during one of our Core Breakdown posts, highlighting their single “Fuck You Donald Trump”.
Sharptooth are a feminist hardcore band that make it loud and clear just how angry they are with all the bullshit that has been going on (against woman, the LGBTQ community, people of color, and against our country). Clever Girl is a tremendously excellent effort, in regards to both instrumental musicianship, vocals, and lyricism. Opening track “Rude Awakening” comes with a hefty Hatebreed vibe, the guitar sound warming up with heat before letting loose a chug-heavy progression, the drums and bass pumping away. Vocalist Lauren Kashan even gives a vocal pattern that rips with a scratchy hysteric appeal, riding along the fluctuating tones of the instrumental structure. The self-tilted track storms away in a vicious presence, riding off with a style that aligns with the speedier metalcore acts of today. Both guitarist Keth Higgins and Lance Donati keep the adrenaline at a vibrant high with riffs that slide with electric energy. Conor Mac lets loose an ever chaotic drum beat throughout the work, the bass work of Phil Rasinski bursting through the composition, pummeling with a delicious bop. “Jesus Loves You” is an instrumental interlude that includes a spoken word piece from some sort of religious fanatic. While this element alone is cringe-worthy in the ridiculous nature of the speech, the instrumentals offer more to the emotion. The slow drum pattern, mixed with the thunder of the bass, and distortion roaming drone of the guitars, make for a truly horrifying atmosphere.
While Sharptooth keeps things interesting throughout the entire album with various styles of sound and aggressive playing, the lyrical side of the album makes for another massive quality within the music. Vocally, Kashan presents a blend of styles that go from straight forward screaming, to singing, to spoken word segments. The lyrics bring their own grit and emotion to the Sharptooth table, coming with as much ferocity as the instrumentals. In the beginning of “Give Em Hell Kid”, Kashan shouts “See, they don’t understand/ That there’s no peace without justice/ So take it in your hands;/ Strike the match/ And fire it up/ We the people have spoken/ We’ll start a blaze to burn down a system that’s broken.” Within this short verse, Kashan and the instrumentals shift in tone from a light punk atmosphere, to then erupting with a hardcore flare. This adds to the overall call to action aura of the verse, helping to build the intensity.
Clever Girl is also a heavily focused feminist work through its lyrics about violence and misogyny against women. In one section of “Can I Get A Hell No”, Kashan belts out, “My dignity, my sense of being treated like a human being/ I am not a fucking object/ I am not fucking object.” This is then followed up with, “Makes no difference what I wear or even how I walk/ Don't ask for my number I don't want to fucking talk.” The lyrics tackle catcallers and aggressors, calling out the bullshit machoism that men force upon women just trying to go about their day. The instrumental side of the track beats to a militant flow, giving into the pure rage of the theme. “No Sanctuary” covers the cruelty that’s homophobia. The opening lines let loose, “The words you say, the hate you feel, the lives, you stole/ A bigot’s life becomes another’s body toll/ Those words can kill, you hold the blame, ‘cause homophobia creates/ An atmosphere that feeds into another person’s hidden hate.”
Many people will get fired up about this record for all the wrong reasons, but you know what… it’s a record that we need. Politically infused music has been around for ages, even well before Trump and his goons. Across punk and metal we’ve had bands like Bikini Kill, Minor Threat, The Dead Kennedys, Lamb of God, and Job For A Cowboy who have specifically driven home messages in regards to their anger and distrust towards our political leaders. Music has always been a mix of straight forward entertainment, along with being an art form that provides knowledge. We’ve had music for decades that play to either side of these notions, or even cater to both. But given everything that’s going on, Sharptooth have crafted a truly significant work for our times.
We can look at Clever Girl as an explosive hardcore record that packs tons of aggressive blends of sound, and shows off lots of impressive techniques in the instrumental playing. We can also look at Clever Girl as an educational experience: for the things happening around us, the fears we’ve never had to experience, or the issues we may have not even been aware of. Not only have Sharptooth released a musically awesome record that is entertaining and heavy as hell, but they’ve also put out a work of art that documents the struggles that thousands upon thousands of people have to endure. It’s an album that not only highlights these issues though, but is also a call to arms. Clever Girl may have just appeared towards the end of 2017, but it is a record that will carry the flame of equality and justice for those who deserve a voice for years to come.