Clever Girl by Sharptooth needs to be the new anthemic rally for social equality. In fact, it is just that. Led by gnashing instrumentals that drive even the most at peace individual into a nuclear, cataclysmic rage. It’s catharsis at its finest to feel the eardrums convulse to Sharptooth’s visceral debut. Vocalist Lauren Kashan brought her inner fears to light on the album, adding fuel to the devastating fire that is Clever Girl.
It starts immediately with “Rude Awakening,” the opening track on the record. With walls of feedback and grooves behind, a poetic monologue is brought froth from the depths of the heart. The song begins to explain what Clever Girl is for Sharptooth, a specific spot to unleash the complexities of art and let any form of emotion — be it known or unknown — out. From then on it’s a hell storm of sporadic rhythm patterns, urgent howls and spiraling riffs. It’s this hair raising bursts of energy that make the Baltimore hardcore band an inviting listen. “Can I Get A Hell No” is one crushing breakdown to the next, leading into a southern tinged beatdown with Kashan leading a social reform call with a torch.
And if there is one more layer to Clever Girl, it is the social awareness that Kashan bring to light embedded in the lyrics of every song. From the anger involved in sexual assault to how mental illness is treated and even the horrific crimes against LGBTQIA community, Kashan and company are using their music as an outlet to paint the scene as it is and hope for unity and change. That being said, New Noise Magazine is pleased to present Lauren Kashan’s unique and eye opening track by track to the bombastic entity that is Clever Girl.
“Rude Awakening” opens the record with a sort of meta-examination of what it means to be a vocalist, a writer, a musician, and a member of the hardcore scene. It introduces the listener to what we’re going to be doing on this record: looking at some of the most difficult parts of ourselves, our society, and the world at large, in the only place that many of us feel safe to do so: through music. I think a lot of people can relate to feeling like music and shows are the one place they can be themselves. It’s an invitation for everyone else to join us there too.
“Clever Girl” is a full blown assault on the patriarchy. It attacks the glass ceiling, gender roles, mansplaining, and being silenced as a woman in a society that, even today, often treats the feminine as lesser. This song was inspired by a conversation that I had with a guy who was insisting on telling myself and a group of women, many of whom are survivors of sexual violence, how we should and shouldn’t feel about sexual violence. It was such a gross example of this phenomenon where people of privilege often behave as though they have more authority than the actual people who have experienced these things (in this case, we would call that mansplaining). This song is also lesson to ALL people of privilege (myself included!) that often, what is needed is for people to sit down and actually LISTEN to the people who have lived through certain circumstances, rather than dictating their experience for them.
Give Em Hell Kid
This song has several layers. Firstly, I started writing it during the Michael Brown trials, when the problem of police brutality was first starting to REALLY make itself apparent to the general public. Not too long after, the Baltimore Uprising happened, and in my own city and across the country, people started protesting and fighting back. Participating in protests during the Baltimore Uprising also made me examine my own privilege as a white person, and my ability to work as a more effective ally to people of color. I think it’s important for white folks to be using our positions of privilege to attack systemic issues like police violence and racism, and to make sure that the voices of people of color are being amplified and heard.
The second layer to this song unveiled itself to me during the election process. We saw so much corruption from both political parties during the election, and it became very apparent to me that the system itself is broken and needs reform. And that reform starts with us as citizens, using our power as voters and as protesters to fight to enact change that benefits all people.
Fuck You Donald Trump
The title says it all. We’re just not a fan of the guy! We actually wrote this song about a year and a half ago, well before Trump was ever elected. It was actually originally supposed to be called “Red Lies”, and was intended to be about the whole Republican candidate pool. But the working title of the song was “Fuck You Donald Trump”, cause he really embodied so many of the problems with the party as a whole, and we really thought he was a total joke. But once Trump was elected to office, we decided to keep that working title, because clearly, it’s what needs to be said.
Can I Get A Hell No
“Can I Get A Hell No” is about street harassment: what it’s like to experience, why it’s so scary and degrading, and why people shouldn’t do it, ever. Catcalling is something that pretty much all women and femmes have experienced, and this song is my embodiment of everything I wish I could say to those catcallers. It’s important, because a lot of the time, we’re not in a safe enough situation to even acknowledge, let alone respond to a harasser. I truly hope this song helps femmes feel empowered, regardless of having to exist in a world where this is our reality. I also hope it helps educate men in our society as to why this practice is hurtful. If you want to join the fight against street harassment, go to https://bmore.ihollaback.org/ for more information.
Jesus Loves You
This song has no lyrics, but it serves as an introduction into “No Sanctuary.” The audio clip in the song is a pastor named Kevin Swanson, who is pastor in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and who has publicly validated the bible’s proclamation that homosexuals should be put to death. This is a segue into the concepts we look at in “No Sanctuary,” particularly the idea that people who espouse these ideas to the world at large, are at least partly to blame for the deaths that are caused by homophobic hate crimes.
I wrote No Sanctuary right after the Pulse shooting in Orlando. It was the first time in my life I had witnessed a large scale hate crime directed at LGBTQIA people, and as a bisexual person, that had a pretty profound affect on me. It made me examine where and how that kind of hate starts and grows. It lead me to look towards religions that preach the condemnation of homosexuality, and to consider that, for a lot of people with homophobic feelings, that’s where the seed of hate is planted, because nobody is born with hate. The song also examines the way the language we use directly influences our culture. Homophobic slurs might be a joke to some, but their use in society has the potential to directly contribute to and justify hateful feelings in other people, perhaps even people who might go on to commit an atrocity such as the Pulse shooting. This song was my way of dealing with all of the feelings that shooting brought up for me, my own experiences of bi-phobia, and the ways in which hate speech has impacted me and so many other people in the LGBTQIA community.
Left 4 Dead
“Rise” is a rallying cry to the listener to be the change they want to see in the world. The record discusses many of the problems in the world, and Rise was my way of addressing the need for action and personal accountability. If everyone is sitting around, waiting for someone else to fix things, nothing is going to change. That’s why each of us needs to take individual responsibility to stand up for what we think is right, and to implement change in our own lives.
Blood Upon Your Hands
“Blood Upon Your Hands” is about mental illness. Specifically, it’s about the stigma that continues to surround mental illness, and how this stigma keeps people from getting help. People who don’t get treatment for their mental illnesses are far more likely to die from suicide or overdose. The song talks more specifically about my own battles with depression and substance abuse in my teenage years, and the ways stigma kept me from asking for help at the time. Furthermore, this stigma also contributes to the fact that drug and alcohol addiction is treated atrociously by our medical system, and quite often people aren’t getting the help that they need because of a system that relies on archaic treatment methods with zero basis in science. People look down on addicts, so people don’t bother to research better treatments for them. And as such, too many people needlessly die at the hands of a system that treats them like criminals, rather than people with a medical condition.
“Pushing Forward” is all about facing your fears, and owning and living your truth. When I was writing this song, I was struggling with “coming out” in several areas of my life. Writing this song was a really integral part of my journey towards being a more authentic and braver version of myself. At the end of the song, I revisit the original concept and lyrics presented in Rude Awakening; that this music, this band, and this record, is all a part of living my truth, and I invite the listener to join me in both this journey of self expression and activism, and to create positive change within the world at large, and within ourselves.