EP Review: Scowl – ‘Psychic Dance Routine’

Posted: by The Editor

“Psychic Dance Routine,” the title track off Scowl’s new EP, nearly sounds like a completely different band than the scrappy hardcore upstarts who put together 2021’s How Flowers Grow. The quartet ripped through ten tracks in about fifteen minutes, only ever letting up for the more melodic punk of “Seeds to Sow.” By contrast, “Psychic Dance Routine” dispenses with any sort of punk influence at all, leaning instead into a gritty, midtempo ‘90s alt rock sound. Pre-release materials quote the band’s express intention as sounding “like Negative Approach meets The Breeders.” They’re not the first hardcore band to branch out to incorporate grunge elements—for just one example, Drug Church has risen to new heights doing the same lately—but on a song like “Psychic Dance Routine,” or on Psychic Dance Routine’s lead single “Opening Night,” the shift sounds wholly natural to them in a way few of their contemporaries have pulled off.

“Opening Night,” which keeps up the pace of the band’s punk material, is one of the best cuts on the EP. While Kat Moss’ shrieked vocals are a staple of the band’s sound, her clean vocals are extremely impressive; there’s a natural charisma to her singing, and she’s got an ear for pop melodies. The introductory “Shot Down” makes that clear at once—the song’s hook is absolutely massive. It‘s somewhat jarring, though, coming off the crushing first verse and barreling straight into a sugary, radio-ready chorus. Admittedly, that flow of the entirety of Psychic Dance Routine plays out that way: after “Shot Down,” the only song with an even balance of sung and growled vocals, every other song switches off between the softer and heavier tracks. 

But at only ten minutes, none of the songs on Psychic Dance Routine stick around long enough to cause whiplash. Instead, it ends up as a succinct sampler of Scowl’s versatility. Impressively, the best songs on the EP are the ones that stray away from the band’s standard formula. Psychic Dance Routine is an interesting document for Scowl—it feels like a stepping stone to a more cohesive release down the road. In the meantime, though, it’s an impressive sound. 

Disappointing / Average / GoodGreat / Phenomenal

Psychic Dance Routine is out now on Flatspot Records.

Zac Djamoos | @gr8whitebison

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