Seventy-four seconds into the third track on the more-than-eagerly anticipated Des_Ark debut Loose Lips Sink Ships, Aimee Argote emancipates a howl that’s a teetotal reminder of what it means to be rock ‘n’ roll.
“Everything’s gonna change when they come for you,” she sustains before unleashing that roar, the kind of scream that comes from long-suspended personal demons suddenly too painful to ignore. It’s the kind of scream that doesn’t echo reality, but instead becomes it.
Less than a minute before, the song had crept along, Argote painting a picture of ex-virginal vulnerability and ostensibly seeking redemption in a weep-like lead: “I woke up in my parents’ bed / Was the middle of the night and I hoped to god.”
As drummer Tim Herzog careens in, though, the tumult and the kiss-off are apparent. “I cleaned up your mess and I picked up my heart / Was a thousand pieces less than it ever was,” Argote razes, stabbing away in a voice with a fem-fight audacity to make The Dresden Dolls take notice. And without warning, that howl.
The song settles again, slowly building into a second verse just as Argote delivers a chiming guitar skate worthy of Don Caballero inclusion. The rage continues to mount, even as Argote finds a lover to “keep me warm until my headache is gone.”
Six of the album’s eight cuts roll along in those anxiously defiant, expertly dynamic terms, unfurling as controlled cataclysms of catharsis and rapture scribed in Argote’s alt-tuned guitar scabbard and punctuated (dotted and exclaimed!) by Herzog’s across-the-kit, over-and-under maelstroms of whipsmart snare and brass. She writes, sings and plays with a confrontational fervency, and Herzog brilliantly sizes up every sentiment, dealing in crushing, booming, overwhelming salvos where a math rock precision suddenly morphs into an archetypal punk indulgence. It’s that lock-and-key pairing that makes for listening as confrontational as it is compromising.
But it’s not all sludge and charge: Opener “Some Are Love” is a Joni Mitchell-like paean to “love that keeps us together,” while the opposing bookend, “For Bob Riecke,” shuffles along as a sweet piano spiritual spoken from a man dying high in Alaska’s McKinley range.
Bookend to bookend: perfect.