by Chris Prod
Nose Picker, the new album from Chicago’s Negative Scanner, features singer/guitarist Rebecca Valeriano-Flores mid-harvest, one digit lodged firmly in her nose. We ask ourselves, ‘What is she digging for? What are we supposed to find in our own plunging into the depths of Negative Scanner’s world?”
One thing you’ll find, to no one’s surprise if you are familiar with the band’s 2015 debut, is the same sort of fierce funk-punk rhythms the band excels in. In fact, in the intervening years between 2015 and now, the band has seemingly become tighter than ever.
Only one track on the album exceeds two and a half minutes, ‘Shoplifter,’ which equates a narcissistic lover with someone insidiously taking something and never having to face the consequences of their actions.
While relationships play a key role in much of the lyrical content, this is not the only subject that Negative Scanner’s ire is reserved for. We also have the police state (“10 million men in uniform and they got a right to kill” from ’10 Million Kids’) and racism (“So you can hate me for my clothes. Hate me for my job. Hate me because I’m other? Well, you can fuck right off.” From ‘6 Ft. Hole’).
Shifting from pulsating staccato beats to driving power chords that deliver the most danceable kind of catharsis (a la Wire), it’s impossible not to be enamored by the hooks that permeate Nose Picker. Opening track “T.V.” starts off by asking “Is there anybody there?” before launching into a frenzied riff guaranteed to get the crowd moving. “History Lesson” pummels one with a driving force evoked by how the lyrics treat the weight of history on one’s shoulders (“Can you bear its weight anymore?,” “Have you learned your lesson?”).
Despite the power pop sensibilities, one never fully loses the post-punk tension and encompassing fury. As bellowed on the title track “You’re picking sides like you pick your nose,” lack of conviction is a death sentence in a world that is becoming increasingly black and white. You’re either with them or against them and, frankly, it’s hard not to be on their side.