Picture a black 1978 Chevy Nova, barreling down a chewed up, desolate street amidst crumbling, vacant buildings in a post-apocalyptic, nightmarish world. The car’s passengers: Matt Revers, Nick Beaudoin, and Tom Cassling, all looking hungry and anxious. Their weapons: scratched up, dented, played hard and put away angry guitars, bass, and drums strapped atop the vehicle’s roof. The Nova’s driver: Rebecca Valeriano-Flores, a guitar-wielding, raven-haired woman with a thousand-yard stare, and a full-throated, punch-you-in-the-gut voice that leaves anyone that hears it instantly floored by its raw power and emotion. And you, dear listener? You’re in the ding-dang trunk, holding on for your life. Welcome to Negative Scanner’s debut album.
Fans of first wave British post-punk acts such as The Fall, Au Pairs, and the faster songs of Joy Division (e.g. Warsaw, Ice Age) will immediately understand and appreciate what Negative Scanner are delivering on this driving, take no prisoners, self-titled release. This is a band that has done their homework. Every song delivers striking guitar interplay that builds and releases tension at an unimaginably effective level for a group that has only been playing together since 2012. There’s an earnestness and desperation in Negative Scanner’s sound that feels visceral and energizing. These aren’t things that can be faked; they’re born of an uncommon chemistry of like-minded, passionate individuals, coming together to create something exciting at the right time.
The songs roll out fast and furious, each one more bracing than the next. As if challenging her bandmates, Rebecca’s tenacious vocals and impassioned words first match, and then top each potent transition with fury and aplomb. The last third of the album is introduced with a song called “Fan vs. Wild” which has Valeriano-Flores at her most vulnerable lyrically without losing an ounce of aggression. The album’s closer “Pity” somehow seems to harness all the band’s powers. As a poignant guitar line introduces the track, Negative Scanner’s dynamic rhythm section builds quickly, allowing Valeriano-Flores’ voice to climb dramatically, ultimately soaring, ending in an appropriately gratifying conclusion.
Post-punk is alive and well and living in Chicago. No retreating, no surrendering, no acquiescing, Negative Scanner put the pedal to the metal, drive the car off the cliff, and walk away unscathed. In a collapsing empire, chock-a-block full of button pushing zombies, phony pop royalty, and shattered heroes, Negative Scanner play as if everything has been taken away from them, and their music is all they have left. They make every thrilling moment count as if it could be their last. My only complaint is that at a running time of just under thirty minutes, it’s all over too soon. A stunning, near perfect record, I can’t wait to hear what Negative Scanner do next.