The 10 Best Screaming Females Songs

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The 10 Best Screaming Females Songs


The shock hasn’t worn off yet. New Jersey rock legends Screaming Females called it quits earlier this week, ending a brilliant 18-year run. The trio of guitarist/vocalist Marissa Paternoster, bassist “King” Mike Abbate, and drummer Jarrett Dougherty started playing together in the New Brunswick DIY scene that orbited Rutgers University in the mid-2000s. They shared basement stages with bands like the Ergs, Hunchback, and Full Of Fancy, and they always kept a foot in that world, even as they became critical darlings and fixtures of the indie-rock touring circuit. Their eclectic annual Garden Party festival in Jersey City became a way of recreating those genre-agnostic bills from New Brunswick’s punk houses, just on a much larger scale. (The Garden Party will outlive the band who started it; a 2024 version headlined by Team Dresch will take place in February.)

Screaming Females – or Screamales, as they were affectionately known by fans – accomplished a lot in their too-short career. They made eight albums together, from the scuzzy punk belter Baby Teeth to the Steve Albini-helmed Ugly to the maximalist double LP All At Once . This year’s swansong, Desire Pathway, was classic Screamales — a sharply observed collection of hooky, nervy rock songs full of ripping guitar solos and hypnotic grooves. Paternoster’s fretboard pyrotechnics and bellowing vocals have always grabbed the headlines, but there’s no Screaming Females without the genius-level interplay between Abbate and Dougherty. I don’t know what precipitated the end of the band, but if they were faced with a choice between making a lineup change and ending things, I’m glad they decided to break up.

As uniformly excellent as their albums are, the real Screaming Females could only be found onstage. They played around 1,500 shows in total, including gigs in all 50 states. (The documentary Screaming Females Do Alaska sees them completing that quest. There’s a scene where Paternoster shreds out a solo while crowd-surfing through an Anchorage dive bar, which I don’t think happens in The Eras Tour or Renaissance.) There’s really no experience in live music that compares to watching a great rock band operating at their peak, and the Screamales operated at theirs for nearly two decades. The way they blasted through their rich, varied set lists – unique every night, scribbled out by Paternoster a few minutes before hitting the stage – always looked effortless. They seemed like they were having so much fun up there. I’ll miss seeing that.

The last time I saw Screaming Females was in August, headlining one of those mixed bills they cut their teeth playing — with the avant-garde cello-and-drums duo Lung, the debauched power-poppers in Vacation, and the Screamales’ Don Giovanni labelmate, singer-songwriter Maura Weaver. The house was packed, and the show felt euphoric, the way all their shows do. I wish I could go back and relive the hour they were up there, doing their thing for what I never imagined would be one of the final times. On Desire Pathway highlight “Let You Go,” Paternoster sings, “Now the stage is empty, and I am too.” Whether or not that line was meant as foreshadowing, it’s now a bittersweet epitaph for one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands in the world. Here are 10 songs I’ll keep coming back to while I mourn. Screamales forever.

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