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Cover Art

F-minus ( )

Wake Up Screaming
Hellcat ( www.hell-cat.com )
done another production job worthy of his reputation. Since the release of The Pixies’ Surfer Rosa, many great albums have been put out that have borne Albini’s name in one capacity or another, but through no fault of his have they been great. Albini has made a career out of making a mess out of a band’s sound but now, for the first time since Surfer Rosa, Albini has finally produced a band that benefits from his “small room sound� recording style. On F-Minus fifth release, Albini has successfully compressed the proverbial beehive into a thimble. Every track on Wake Up Screaming buzzes with chaos and claustrophobic energy. The guitars hum above the mixes as waves of pitched feedback swirl below them. Vocalist Erika Daking drags her already rough voice across a field of glass; shredding and shrieking her lines to arrive at a sound akin to Courtney Love (Pretty On The Inside era) on the worst monthly cycle in history. In typical Albini fashion, the drums sound as though they’re being played two rooms away, but in most cases there isn’t room for them anyway; Daking and co-guitarist Brad Logan completely fill in the high end of the mixes while Joe Steinbrick’s bass completely swallows all of the low end territory. From a musical standpoint, the effort is significantly less exemplary than the production. The songs on Wake Up Screaming blend together more than anything and are easier to forget than tell apart. F-Minus haven’t been able to escape the trap of being angry first and articulate second. Daking and Logan share vocal duties in F-Minus and trade off lines in the songs, but given that most of those lines degenerate into grunts and shrieks, prize lyrics like “Give us your guts- we’ll give you relief/ Give us your minds- we’ll give you belief� (from “Brand Loyalty�) and some pretty harsh one-liners (scan “From Here�) get dissolved in the sonic vortex. In spite of the excellent production, Wake Up Screaming is far from a great record. Albini has found a band that he can take to new distorted and aggressive levels in F-Minus, but songwriting in this case has taken a backseat to image. Daking and company want you to think they’re the hardest bastards in the land and at the moment, they’ve succeeded in being the heaviest on Hellcat, but they forgot to develop and sort of intelligible dynamic. As far as F-Minus’ aspirations to heaviness are concerned, maybe Albini should throw on Atomizer and scare the hell out of his new protégés.

By Bill Adams
Mar 13, 2004

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