Screama Ballerina – Various Tracks
Reviewed by Rob Barker
Brighton’s Screama Ballerina have been around for less than a year, and to be honest I’d never heard of them before. Maybe it’s because they’re from the opposite end of the country to me, or maybe I’ve just been stuck in a bit of a death-metal rut lately, but I’m definitely glad that they came to my attention.
Combining elements of late 70s punk, swing, rockabilly and good old catchy pop, the band are making a name for themselves thanks to the likes of BBC Introducing. They even have the approval of John Lydon, but then so does butter and wallet-crushingly expensive coffee-table books.
While the band don’t yet have an EP released, they’ve put out three singles so far, each of which shows a different side of their sound, first up, Skeleton Army.
The first thing that leaps out of the speakers is that Charlie O’Connor’s vocals are unashamedly British, rather than putting on the often seen fake American accent, she sticks to her roots, giving further weight and honesty to the music.
Tackling image issues and the obsession with being thin, Skeleton Army doesn’t pull any lyrical punches, with O’Connor snearing: “Who wants to love a skeleton? Feel them breaking in your arms, Broken bones not beautiful, A Corpse has little charm”.
Musically the track is simple, stripped back punk-tinged rock. Screama have clearly got a hang of writing hooky pop singalongs, with the lyrics sticking after just one listen. By combining these pop sensibilities with a more engaging and current lyrical topic, the band have managed to bring serious issues to the fore without resorting to long-winded political rants.
The downside of writing on such a weighty issue is that the lyrics can cut two ways, and that in demonising the outside influences that make people aim towards being ‘underweight’ they could also be seen as criticising those who are naturally on the bonier side of the scale.
Continuing to show the band’s politically charged slant, Rich Kids takes on that old punk favourite of the class divide. O’Connor brings the topic up to date with current lyrics like ‘You want everyone to know just how rich you are, But nobody cares about your Abercrombie bra!”.
Where ‘Rich Kids’ really sets itself apart from the norm is in its musical arrangement, introducing jazzy swing elements, which at times gives it a Danny Elfman-like quality.
Rounding out the trio of tracks is Papercuts, by far the most sonically adventurous of the three, the track is a commentary on the world’s reliance on, and obsession with money.
Building on Rich Kids’ swing elements, ‘Papercuts’ is a full on upbeat rockabilly dancealong, think of a stripped back HorrorPops and you’re in the right area.
Screama Ballerina have really set the bar for emerging bands, with a level of polish and precision, as well as a host of interesting yet straightforward ideas, that many bands have been struggling to achieve in a much longer time frame. If these three tracks are anything to go by then keep an eye out for what could be a great album.