The first Women album was one of the rare few that deserves the hype it gets. Despite some sequencing issues, its songs were impeccable and its atmosphere was certainly unique, courtesy of producer Chad VanGaalen getting them to record outside in a culvert and directly into a boombox.
Public Strain is an immediate and obvious step forward. It doesn’t depart too much from Women’s particular brand of post-punk, but it does intensify it a little. The group’s pop tendencies shine through more brightly this time around, with “Venice Lockjaw” featuring ’60s harmonies over placid Velvet Underground strumming. There’s also more depth to their abrasive side, as well: “Narrow With The Hall” and “Drag Open” are all distorted cello and broken-glass guitars. As with the last record, their best tracks lie in the middle of the noisy pop spectrum, like the impossibly shrill “Heat Distraction” and six-minute closer “Eyesore”.
Despite the return of VanGaalen’s exquisite production, Women are still clearly not a “record” band – their power is only truly evident in their live show. Still, Public Strain is a terrific document from one of Canada’s best touring acts.
Mason Pitzel, Production Manager