It’s easy to make a really loud rock and roll record. People like Dave Grohl have made entire careers out of “loud” as a descriptor. What is infinitely more difficult, however, is to make a loud record that has weight. And the only way to do that is to make the truly boisterous moments stand out. It’s all about dynamics.
Skinny Girl Diet understands the nuances of making a rock record that is dynamic, surprising, and at moments deafeningly quiet. Delilah and Ursula Holiday have together created a record that is a swirling celebration of all things punk, indie rock, riot grrl, and classic rock. Big riffs coexist with quiet, chorus-laden verses. Screeching fuzz is given equal talking time to pristine cleans. Ideal Woman is everything a modern rock and roll record should be.
Ideal Woman opens with “La Sirena,” a blistering spooky tune that perfectly sets the mood for the rest of the record. In the opening lines of the song, the vocals are more subdued, almost mumbling. Ultimately, the song becomes a cacophony of crashing cymbals and blistering guitar riffs. The yelled phrase “come on now” sounds like a taunt or dare rather than an invitation. The second track, “Witch of the Waste,” features a haunting chord progression and bone-chilling shrieks. Near the end of the song, the vocals begin echoing and bouncing over each other. It’s a very Zeppelin-esque production choice and works so well here. While Skinny Girl Diet’s music is loud and boisterous, details like these show that they are also concerned with songwriting and song-craft. It’s refreshing to hear a louder band add these kinds of special moments to their songs.
“Shed Your Skin” almost sounds like a b-side from White Blood Cells. It’s a very blues influenced riff atop a giant, driving drumbeat. For the chorus, there is a drastic tempo change, which will be sure to get your head bobbing. The title track shows us that this band is not a one trick pony. The verses are so quiet, and the melodies and chords are so beautiful. There’s a tremolo effect on one guitar track, which again is a small detail that adds so much to the song. Holiday sings about changing various aspects of her life, before sarcastically screaming, “I’m your ideal woman” in the chorus. It’s a biting, resounding challenge to the patriarchy.
“Human Zoo” is another slow burn. The verses are quiet and spooky, while the choruses are loud as hell. Staring off with a groovy drumbeat, the song eventually unfolds into another splendid chaos. What’s impressive about this record is that the volume really does change. Though I’ve never seen them live, it does feel like they’ve managed to capture the ferocity and energy of their live set in a studio setting. That type of dedication to dynamics is impressive, and ultimately makes this record such a fantastic listen.
As “Human Zoo” ends, “Starfucker” picks up almost right where it left off. It almost feels like a continuation, with a clean, seventh chord guitar part starting immediately after the final notes of “Zoo.” I always admire when records are carefully sequenced, and this transition feels beautifully mapped out. “Starfucker” is one of my favorite tracks on this record. It follows the same quiet-loud-quiet pattern of previous songs but adds a very cool outro. As fuzzy chords ring out, Holiday sings, “Something’s got to give.” It’s one of my favorite musical moments on this record.
“Western Civilization” features maybe the most badass chorus on this record. Over absolutely riotous riffs, Holiday screams, “How we gonna change the world / When we got no one?” It’s Cobain-esque in the dismal picture it paints of our current condition. And yet, like Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl,” there’s something hopeful in just the exuberant screams and fuzzed out chords. The main riff on “Outsider” is played clean in the first moments of the song, and it almost sounds like a groovy, post-punk song. But then, it descends into rock and roll madness. Holiday proclaims, “I don’t even recognize this place that I’m from.” It’s a perfect ode to the isolation and frustration of modern living.
“Timing” is yet another gorgeous, haunting rocker from Skinny Girl Diet. Holiday sings, “Don’t tell me what I feel isn’t real.” The verses seem like intensely personal stories, and for those moments to coexist alongside this bold statement in the chorus shows the importance of personal autonomy. The song abruptly ends, followed by some very haunting clean chords. “Golden” seems like a sister song to “Timing.” It starts off with dreamy clean chords before of course escalating into fuzzy chaos. Holiday sings, “Everyone wants to climb on my shoulders.” It’s a song about not letting people (men) take credit for the things you’ve accomplished.
Typically, albums are front-heavy. Bands often put their best songs at the front of a record to grab people’s attention. This is not the case with Ideal Woman. The last three songs are probably the strongest, most interesting songs on the record. “Warrior Queens” features the heaviest, dirtiest fuzz tones yet. It’s a two-and-a-half-minute rager, never stopping to offer a moment of respite. If the screams on the rest of the record were brutal, they are turned up to 11 on this song. Holiday sings, “You have no power over me or my emotion.” She repeats the phrase “have no power over me” a number of times in the song, once again championing personal autonomy.
“White Man” is an absolutely perfect song about the privilege white men enjoy in society today. In the first verse, Holiday says, “I wish I was a white man / Maybe life would be easier for me.” Skinny Girl Diet is sneering at the men at the top, challenging them to give up their privilege. “Clickbait,” the album’s closer, features an incredible 20-second build into the most sonically intense, heavy riffage on this record. All of these songs are short and catchy, but “Clickbait” takes the cake on utilizing a short run time perfectly. What they do is essentially recap the entire record in a minute and a half.
Delilah and Ursula Holiday are masters of their craft; writing riff-heavy rock and roll songs. It’s hard to imagine that just two people are making the level of noise and fury on this record. It’s also incredible to watch two people who excel at making loud music write softer moments. They know how to make their audience anticipate the big moments. Ideal Woman is a gorgeous record, in a very visceral, high-octane kind of way.
You can pick up a copy of Ideal Woman from Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records here.