[sic] Magazine

Women – Public Strain

Women – no matter how good one looks, you can always guarantee that some other dude is fed up with her shit, or so the saying goes.

Away from such offhand chauvinism, Calgary’s Women certainly looked very good indeed to many on their highly regarded self-titled 2008 début. Has their absence since however made the heart grow fonder, or has inevitable unwelcome middle-aged spread already kicked in?

This is a question that Public Strain answers definitively, but coyly. Opening with “Can’t You See?”, it’s straight away clear though that the euphoric clatter of the début has now been somewhat muted in favour of more ponderous material. Whilst retaining its noisy fuzz, largely kept to a minimum are the hooks, and this lead track shows it. It’s a gritty little ditty that reveals a closet string section late on as Patrick Flegel hums out a vocal against his brother’s pensive bass.

The oppressive “Heat Distraction” makes a play for reinstating the guitar line as a point of focus. Lively and droningly echo-y, it’s a chiming moment of fidgety post-punk set in Public Strain’s frequent passages of fizzy noise and drone (see “Bells”) and slow-motion garage melodies (see “Penal Colony” and “Venice Lockjaw”).

Another such moment that fully rewards repeat visits comes with “Drag Open”, a track which finds a successful middle ground between Sonic Youth ‘s paranoid dissonance and Wire ‘s edgy dystopia. Earlier, the stoic “China Steps” solemnly pits patient guitar lines against one another as Flegel offers incantations in measured disinterest over them.

The album closes with the single “Eyesore”, a tranquillised track that somehow equally seems essential thanks to carefully constructed jangles that ring out optimistically, suggesting that spring may just be visible on Women’s winter horizon.

Public Strain overall is as dark and chilly as its artwork suggests, yet it also contains a beauty – though it’s one that not everyone may find. Where once Women were relatively brash, they now seem shy, reluctant to make the most of their assets as they once did. Though they themselves may sometimes sound fed up on Public Strain, it is an appealing sulk that ensures once again that Women are more than worth checking out, if a little complicated.

Advised downloads : “Drag Open” and “Eyesore”.

~Public Strain will be released on Jagjaguwar on the 23rd August 2010 in the UK and Europe, and on the 28th September 2010 in the US. It will be released by Flemish Eye on the 28th September 2010 in Canada.~