by Sam Boyhtari
You’d be hard pressed to personify desolation and internal despair more effectively than Daughters’ fourth full-length record, You Won’t Get What You Want. The Rhode Island noise outfit’s latest LP is an anxiety-inducing nightmare ode to human conflict, a rejection of harmony and altruism.
From the record’s first sonic and lyrical moments on “City Song,” these ideas are fully formed and unnerving. “This city is an empty glass,” Alexis Marshall proclaims over a pulsating granular drone; “Words do nothing/ No one sleeps.” A snare drum interjects like a gunshot on the 4 of every bar, a startling contrast to the writhing synth that lurks below and the high-pitched wails that slowly creep their way into the fold. It’s something that would have felt right at home on Scott Walker’s The Drift. But this is Daughters, and this introductory song is one of You Won’t Get What You Want’s tamest moments.
What follows is conversely one of the most stressful and chaotic, the apocalyptic “Long Road, No Turns,” whose primary melodic oscillation might resemble the hum of a mosquito if it was amplified and warped through a tape machine. The groove here is relentless, a carnival ride through hell driven by the insufferable hum and horror-show bell hits. The ride could be derailed at any moment, sending its occupants reeling into the void--a point driven in by Marshall’s repeated revelation, “Everybody climbs up high then falls real far/ A little is all it takes, a little is all it takes,” like a prophet preaching from a soapbox on the edge of the abyss.
“The Lords Song” and “The Reason They Hate Me” are similarly punishing, with hellacious grooves that make the record’s quiet moments feel like welcome reprieves from the chaos--a reward for braving the madness. But these quiet moments are equally unnerving, primarily on “Less Sex,” a slow almost-disco that likens a sexual encounter to a monster being led into the narrator’s home and, eventually, consuming his mind. The follow-up track, “Daughter,” is perhaps the record’s most surprising moment, a bossa nova reflection on the unpredictable inevitability of death despite our earthly actions. The metaphor is thick, but Marshall’s lyrics postulate the absence of meaning in the face of eventual destruction and constant conflict, asking at one point, “Is this meant to be or wicked chance?”
“Satan in the Wait” is the strongest of the ten tracks. Lyrically it holds some of the most disturbing passages, describing a man with “a head like a matchstick/ Face like he was sucking concrete through a straw/ Some faces not even a mother can love.” Then later the focus shifts to a group of what might be societal elites discussing some terrible plan for the rest of the world, of which they decree on the song’s chorus “Their Bodies are open/ their channels are open/ this world is opening up.” The song is Lovecraftian in the scope of its horror, and the melodic hook that accompanies the chorus sounds like something John Carpenter might have written for the main theme of a soundtrack.
The album’s final track “Guest House” is equally fantastic, a horrifying final movement to a record that deserves a stunning conclusion. Orchestral synths create a terrifying beauty as Marshall assumes the role of a transgressor, perhaps a monster himself, screaming “Who boarded the windows?/ Who put a padlock on the cellar door?/ Let me in/ Let me in.” You can look back to previous songs to see how previous themes might be worked into this final statement, and that’s much of the fun of this record. Marshall’s screams become more desperate as he pleads to be let into this place he has been barred from, and figuring out what significance this may hold is up to you. Eventually, the chaos surrenders to the layered string synth chords, making for the most beautiful moment on the record. This outro is so lovely it made me want to start the whole record over just to get to that moment once more.
You Won’t Get What You Want is a record that deserves your complete attention, best heard in a dark room or a long night drive when you are alone and vulnerable. It is hypnotic and terrifying, steeped in metaphor that begs interpretation. And if that isn’t for you, the visceral grooves are equally if not more stunning, driving the record from point to point with different rhythmic flavors and degrees of intensity. Its musical moments are haunting and memorable, making the whole thing feel more like a soundtrack than a standalone album--a soundtrack for a movie that doesn’t exist, which conjures lasting images in a way a picture or film could not. There is beauty in obscurity, and plenty of horror too. For Daughters, what dwells on the surface is terrifying enough, but what lurks below is all the more frightening.