Influence is a delicate thing. Take too much of it in, you end up a flaccid rag floating at sea. Cast it off to too much of an extent and you end up a snake. Take 10 years to notice it and you, amusingly and charmingly enough, become The Willowz in 2017.
Let’s start with Anne Reynoza’s voice: she basically sounds exactly like Karen O on Fifth (it could be just that the swathe of feedback has finally exited her part of the mix and we can now truly grasp the similarity). Are they exactly like The Yeah Yeah Yeahs? Yeah, quite possibly. I don’t really know. My ears are bleeding and it’s still only side A.
But this brings me to two more hilariously direct ripoffs they somehow endearingly pull off: “Don’t Let Them See” reminds me straight up of Queens of the Stone Age’s “Broken Box,” “Just Can’t Wait” then bestowing us with a riff that’s pretty much straight out of Santana’s “Evil Ways” (thankfully we’re spared the chore of actually listening to that song). The groove soars and soars on the raucous, biting “Fair” like an early Van Halen, before coming to a taut, crisp head on a blisteringly sneering chorus: “They don’t give a da** about what is fair”. It’s all whiplash through here, on Fifth.
So here we have them trying their hands at a ballad halfway through the album, “Anyways,” which at first reminds me a little of Zeppelin’s “That’s the Way” (which is partly why I wish they’d waited until later in the album to unleash this action). The drums seem unnecessarily loud for such a torpor of groove — cheap melodrama from Reynoza here (she was doing really well prior with the whole anger thing, like a, well, clone of Menace Beach’s Liza Violet… this band is a lot like Menace Beach in general). Sadly, “Anyways,” the longest song on the album, just doesn’t work, where vociferous brevity had been more than hacking it up to this point, and I’m not buying this faux-catharsis of treated-guitar solo here, either. It’s too Radiohead — punk is still this band’s bread and butter and always will be.
Other parts of side B find the volume jacked back up with a gamut of reference points including everything from The Jesus Lizard to Joan Jett, track nine “Now You Know” opening up with a cute little sound bite of somebody panting, breathless. Also, the lyrics take a stark, real-life end-of-the-road type turn here: “I’m not a member of the human race / I’m like a building going up in flames”. Producer Paul Kostabi did a good job kicking us in the gut with some serious drums all over this album, though… some better transitions into and out of the big, long ballad might have seriously improved this little project’s grade.