Through my growing love affair with metal and hardcore, I’ve realized two things about screaming. First, there’re as many different varieties of screams as there are ways of developing throat cancer. And second, whereas the best male hardcore vocalists make you think, Dude’s crazy; a really great female screamer makes you think, Damn, that chick is S-E-X-Y.
Exhibit A: Red Knife Lottery’s Ashley Chapman, who turns me on even as she’s howling obsessive lyrics such as “He’s coming to rape you/ His knife to your throat, so you will fall in love,” from the opening track of the band’s So Much Drama EP. Chapman knows how to capitalize on the elastic energy that this Milwaukee four-piece puts out. On “Call-Girls in Pink Hospitals,” she catapults from melodic-punk sneering to muttered imprecations right before launching into a volley of screams and shouts at the song’s ecstatic high-point. Sometimes mimicking Karen O’s punky coquette, other times sounding as gnarled and throaty as Brody Dalle from the Distillers, Chapman has the charisma and raw talent that have made indie darlings out of lesser bands.
Problem is, if you listen to aggressive post-punk bands such as At the Drive-In or Pretty Girls Make Graves, you’ve heard this album already. Red Knife Lottery apes the Blood Brothers pretty shamelessly, down to the bizarro synthesizer interludes, strangely danceable rhythms and dada song titles. The Morse-code guitar riff that opens “Red Knives and Plastic Wives” is so similar to the one that starts the Brothers’ “Ambulance vs. Ambulance” that the band members should’ve just paid for sampling rights and saved the time they took writing the damn thing. Unfortunately, Red Knife Lottery can’t mimic its heroes’ knack for memorable hooks — a shame considering the strength of Chapman’s singing voice.
Still, there are far worse acts to idolize than the Blood Brothers, and So Much Drama‘s six tracks display enough sincerity and invention to avoid blatant hero worship. Red Knife Lottery’s aversion to linear verse/chorus structures works well for its twisted and twisting narratives, and guitarist Chris Hansen whips out a whole range of effects and prickly guitar lines (check the ending of the title track) that you rarely hear in this genre.
Best of all, the oldest member of the band is twenty-one, and this is a debut release. It took the Blood Brothers three albums to release a masterpiece. If the members of Red Knife Lottery keep digging deeper and honing their sound, they might just turn up a post-punk classic of their own.