Desire Pathway

Screaming Females

Don Giovanni, 2023

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


After a five-year hiatus, beloved indie punk/rockers Screaming Females returned in early 2023 with their eighth album Desire Pathway, and it’s likely the best album of their long career to date.

Surprisingly, the band has remained both consistent and tight-knit over their 18-year career; the power trio has remained together with no lineup changes, and yet they still make their own album art and T-shirts, retaining a small but loyal following. There have been hints of prestige over the years, most notably when lead singer/guitarist Marissa Paternoster was ranked on a Greatest Guitarists of All Time list in 2012, but any steam they gathered never really resulted in a larger following or radio airplay, and the five-year break certainly didn’t help.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But for those who know, or who are just discovering, this album is a great surprise. The punk energy is still there but enhanced with great riffs (and a solo or two!), melodic twists and some great lyrical turns of phrase… and none of it is screamed, thankfully. Some ugly feedback starts the album that quickly dissolves into an in-your-face riff rocker in “Brass Bell,” one of the songs inspired by Paternoster’s recent breakup. “Desert Train” is a raucous and brief rocker and “Let You Go” is even better, with a slower ’90s alt-rock feel and a welcome self-assurance.

The album was recorded at the same Minnesota studio as In Utero and Rid Of Me, two alt-rock touchstones, but the band doesn’t try to sound like anyone else; instead, they use the ghosts of the space as inspiration for the 10 tracks here. The sound may be immediate and catchy, but by no means have the band gone soft or commercial; they’ve just grown up a bit, sanded some of the roughest edges, learned more about songwriting. The album whizzes by in a blur of energy and riffs and everyone involved is clearly having fun, and that means something; imagine the energy of “Ripe” from 2015’s Rose Mountain spread across an album, and you’ll get a sense of what’s here.

Likely the best tracks are the first three, as the songs slip a bit in memorable melodies, but the album closes with a trio of solid tracks: the solo guitar/vocal “So Low,” the confident “Let Me Into Your Heart” and the closing riffage of “Titan,” which ends with a skronky guitar solo and a grin.

Solid alt-rock is hard to come by that’s not willfully precious, hipster-cool or obtuse, making Desire Pathway a blast of fresh air and, possibly, a stepping stone for those who forgot about the band (or never knew about them) to rediscover the back catalog. Marissa and the boys deserve it.

Rating: B

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