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Clean Girls - "Despite You" | Album Review

by Ben Smith

Brooklyn’s by way of Virginia noise punks Clean Girls consists of guitarist Chris Tracy, bassist Stephanie Monohan and drummer Stephen Reader. The three work full 40+ hour workweeks and can only find time once a week to practice. However, after one 10-hour recording session, Despite You is Clean Girls first release on Accidental Guest Recordings and is one of the most powerfully dark and gloomy noise rock records to come out this year. 

The band is self-described as “commuter-rage” and it’s easy to see why. Despite You is the illustration of frustrations caused by working day in day out, pushing through crowded trains and packed buses to go between a job and a cramped apartment. In each track, rage and tension build while frustrations break apart in a noisome blast of energy.

Clean Girls are reminiscent of the Mid-Atlantic thrash and hardcore scenes creating a sound and style so aggressive, yet lingering at times, only to be released in a complete torrent of noise. The band seems to hold some attachment to their home state of Virginia; it is clear that Clean Girls derive a lot of influence from not just New York but from the diverse and stylistic history of the Mid-Atlantic scenes. “Woad” the albums second track, builds up into a blasting thrash breakdown, comparable to the experience of watching a dark Mid-Atlantic storm cloud roll into the sky and explode into a torrent of rain, wind, and lightning. Styles effortlessly shift throughout songs, with tracks such as “No New Friends” crafting a noisy style of thrash and grind, only to be effortlessly broken down and transitioned into a noisy crust punk style on the album's next track, “Day of the Woman.”

Clean Girls have refused to conform to any one idea or style under the expansive umbrella of noise rock. By doing so, the band has been able to push their own creative boundaries and create one of the darkest, gloomiest, and most powerful albums of this year. The transitions on Despite You are so seamless that at times it is impossible to tell when one track ends and the next begins in the chaotic ebb and flow. 

The diverse collection of influences and styles along with the careful balance of building tension almost require several listen throughs. It is extremely refreshing to see a band fully embracing the spirit of the DIY punk ethos and taking advantage of every resource available to them, defying the pre-designed and manufactured ideas of “noise rock” and simply just doing what they love to fullest ability.