EP Review: Scowl – Psychic Dance Routine


There seems to be a certain contingent on the Internet of people who think that the songs off of Scowl’s new EP Psychic Dance Routine sound like Hole. Let’s put it this way: There’s this scene at the beginning of the movie Chasing Amy where comic book artist Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) is at a comic book convention and is told by a fan that the characters he created were like “Cheech and Chong meet Bill and Ted.” And Holden is so disgusted that he answers back as snobbishly as possible: “I like to think of them as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern meet Vladimir and Estragon.” That’s what it feels like when someone compares Scowl to Hole. Yes, there’s definitely some similarities to Hole on this EP, but that is one incredible oversimplification.

There’s a veritable smorgasbord of classic femme and feminist rock influences swimming around this EP. Influences range from Joan Jett to early Garbage to Bikini Kill to Kittie to War on Women to Sharptooth. This remains unlikely to be much comfort to many of the people complaining. But, to those who can accept that change is inevitable, Scowl’s new sound is a type of pop-punk and hardcore blend that’s not quite like anything else. And it’s hardly like Scowl shed all of what made their debut LP How Flowers Grow such a cult success. Scowl’s new influences blend in with their old sound, not seamlessly, but rather in rough and jaded ways that throw both the hardcore and the pop-punk elements into sharp contrast with each other. That makes for a really fun little EP here that’s likely to start broadening their audience.

“Shot Down” opens the EP with one foot still planted in the classic Scowl sound and the other foot planted in a more riot grrrl and pop-punk sound. The song switches wildly back and forth between the two. Vocalist Kat Moss, impressively, sticks the landing and masters the switch between screaming and singing beautifully. The album’s title track is the one that seems to be the one catching the most notice. The bass in the song really calls to mind ‘90s-era Garbage. Moss again shows an amazing talent for being able to sing just as well as shriek.

“Opening Night” has a distinctive Breeders vibe to it. That is if the Deal sisters suddenly mutated into feral cats at the end of one of their songs. Again, the hardcore elements aren’t forgotten, they just get blended in with other styles. Closing track “Sold Out” should at least placate the How Flowers Grow fans a little bit. It sounds more like the band’s classic sound.

Bands have to move forwards. Fans complain when bands put out the same record over and over again. And yet there’s still an outcry whenever a band changes anything. It’s just hardcore’s own version of Bob Dylan going electric, only with more misogyny. Scowl understands that they can still be hardcore without believing pop to be a dirty word.

Psychic Dance Routine is available for purchase on CD, cassette, or vinyl on the Flatspot Records website. Scowl is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok for you to keep up with for future updates.

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