En Fuego

Pink Awful

Independent release, 2022


REVIEW BY: John Mulhouse


Album releases are one of the billions of things that were screwed up by COVID-19. So it is that En Fuego (Spanish for “on fire”), an album recorded in 2019 by Pink Awful, a post-punk band out of Reno, Nevada, might as well be considered brand new after a two-year delay from its planned 2020 release.

Pink Awful’s debut album, potboiler, was released in 2018 and, while quite good, didn’t match their live show. The five songs here represent a real step forward. The album clocks in at almost 26 minutes and each tune has a lot going on and is all the better for it. These are not verse-chorus-verse-bridge-repeat structures—as much as I like those—but each song contains carefully crafted twists and turns that reward close listening.  

Starting with “Carnival Blue,” an on/off duet by lead vocalist Ashley Costelloe and guitarist/vocalist Mike Miller, there are immediate flashes of Dischord Records, particularly Fugazi, in the rim shots and rhythmic guitar work that stutters and drones. But the band quickly stretches out to bring in other sounds, and Costelloe is a dynamic and expressive vocalist. It’s not always easy to understand what she’s singing, but what can be gleaned is intriguing.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Rude Emerald” has Costelloe sometimes sounding a bit like Karen O, and fans of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs will likely find Pink Awful to be of interest. By mid-song the band is kicking pretty hard, and there is no doubt that this is a punk band at heart. But the sudden rhythmic break shows that they know their melody and pop, as well.

The high point of the record for me is “Shiny,” a punchy rocker with a further taste of Dischord and more excellent singing by Costelloe, who showcases her exceptional voice through everything from lines that are nearly spoken to pushing a raspy growl. One of Pink Awful’s key strengths is that no matter how far the band wanders into noise and dissonance, they always snap back into a big hook and melody, which works to great effect.

“Habitats” offers some breathing room with interlocking guitar lines and sparse percussion, eventually building to a soaring end. Closer “Peel Back” uses a bit of slashing, metallic Andy Gill/Gang of Four funk in the verse and then shifts into more melodic terrain before circling back again.

This is a well-produced record and the playing is inventive throughout, with lots of intricate guitar work and careful overdubs. Listening in a small space will bring out even more of the texture and tone in the guitar, which travels alongside drumming that is both nuanced and kinetic, and propulsive bass. I like it quite a bit, and it’s refreshing to hear a band playing such original music with seemingly little care for pleasing anyone but themselves. Which is to say: they aren’t afraid to be idiosyncratic. While you can point to some of Pink Awful’s influences, they have brewed up something unique.

The band has since released two more recordings which stretch things even further, and I’ll get into those shortly. For now, you can give Pink Awful a listen on streaming platforms. However, if you prefer to check out an economy-priced physical CD drop them a line through their website.

Rating: A-

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