Like The Smashing Pumpkins before them, Negative Scanner compose themselves of four Chicagoans, three guys and a girl, but this time, it’s some serious, nonplussed estrogen taking them helm at vocals (something largely unimaginable under the ham-handed hand of Billy Corgan, of course). And without a doubt, it’s the vocal chops of Rebecca Valeriano-Flores, which reminded me a little bit of Karen O but more of Eve Libertine from the early-’80s band Crass, that give this music its get-up-and-go — it’s like half-sung, half-yelled beat poetry with a side of punk rock that usually embodies a hopped-up hunk of something between The Strokes and AC/DC.
The heartwarming “Nose Picker” title track comes around second on which I think Valeriano-Flores is spiritedly making some well-hung horn-ball’s life a living he** by comparing his masturbation or fantasizing habits to the titular manual schnozz maintenance. Overall, it works, for being consistent and reliable punk rock with a definite enemy in its crosshairs. “History Lesson,” then, cranks in with basically the exact riff from “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” sped up a bit and all restless and antsy (which amped me up since history was my worst subject), somehow pulling itself off just for making AC/DC somehow punk, like when Leighton Beezer in Hype! just reverses the direction of the same interval and rhythm of a guitar riff and it’s meant to embody a transformation from “punk” to “grunge.” “6 ft. Hole,” then, finds some more verbal carnage spewing from Valeriano-Flores’ twisted muse: “I don’t know what to do / I don’t now what to say / Every time you look at me / I look the other way”, as if she’s equally mad at this annoying dude, mad at herself for not being a nicer person and mad at this overall paradigm for pitting and juxtaposing all these figures so close to each other which are nonetheless so relationally incompatible. The vocal dynamics are there in the form of screeches and distant dialect on “6 ft. Hole” and Negative Scanner’s rhythm section here brings some levity too, with a tense, snare-heavy verse, devolving then into some straight-ahead and invigorating Rancid-territory shredding upon the singer’s declaration that “I’ll dig myself a six foot hole!”, fearful of being murdered, maybe.
In general, the obvious drawback to this music would be that this type of thing has been done, at least in terms of the rudiments of the instruments themselves, by a fu**-ton of different bands already from The Hives to Life without Buildings to Plague Vendor, Valeriano-Ramos just stepping in and updating the theme with her own platitudes from her everyday life. Still, it is reliable punk rock, for when you want that type of thing, and the songs tend to all weld themselves enough of an unique niche as to always keep things fresh and varied, despite their simplicity.