It has been nearly two years since the collapse of the Providence, RI band Daughters. Their eponymous 2010 album (which had deservedly earned them exposure) felt so much like a fresh start, yet it came stillborn, released well after their apparent ugly breakup. Frustratingly, there has never been a definitive disbanding, though half the members have left. Singer Alexis Marshall and drummer Jon Syverson could potentially come back with more material, but with every passing month it seems less likely. What we have in their absence are the few recorded documents of a band that, while perhaps not recognized during their existence, should only grow in recognition and admiration.
For a band that played together for eight years Daughters, originally formed by members of also-defunct As The Sun Sets, have a shockingly small discography. From 2001-2009 their recorded material amounts to little over an hour. Fortunately numbers becomes irrelevant when you consider their immediacy; the band’s output is one of the greatest examples of quality over quantity in recent memory. The debut album Canada Songs boasts ten songs in 11 minutes, which might seem insignificant if those 11 minutes weren’t honed to a razor edge. There are so many memorable moments crammed in. “Jones From Indiana” is all noise rock until an unexpected shift where drums, piercing guitar, and screaming vocals all meld into a violent groove with a few seconds to spare at the end for a droning coda. “Nurse, would you Please” has Nick Sadler abruptly shifting between his usual splintering guitar screech and moments of prickly precise lucidity. “The Ghost With the Most” builds to the breaking point it feels the album has been rushing towards from the start, until suddenly all the tension falls away and the band locks into a slower pace, losing none of its muscle. Marshall’s screams disappear and are replaced by a surprisingly great singing voice indebted to David Yow. Clearly Canada Songs works best when listened to as one piece, something that early Boredoms benefited from, an important influence here; the album could be Soul Discharge’s kid brother.
Hell Songs (read original TMT review here), released in 2006, is expansive in comparison to the first album. At ten songs in 23 minutes, everything that was introduced on Canada Songs and the debut EP is developed, a shift displayed perfectly on “Recorded Inside a Pyramid.” The production sounds far clearer, the instruments give each other a little more space, the seasick string coda at the end comes out of nowhere but feels appropriate. Marshall’s vocals have turned from high pitched screech to a deeper, half-spoken howl. The vocal refinements allow some fabulous lyrical moments to occur, something absent from Canada’s purely musical pleasures. Lines such as “I wear my sickness like a wedding band,” the chanted “love is a disgusting thing,” and the ominous opening shout of “I’ve been called a sinner,” leave a powerful impression on the listener.
This brings us back to that final album, Daughters, released close to the successful debut of guitarist Sadler’s new band Fang Island, which only seemed to cement the break-up. The album was criticized by its own singer, Marshall, as having a very intentional commercial sound, and none of its songs have ever been toured. While a song like “The Hit” does immediately give its listener a groove that might have been built up to or ignored on previous albums, there is still a tremendous value to it. Experimenting with pop music or accessibility should not intrinsically be perceived as “less than shit,” as Marshall puts it in an interview. Liars followed their most brutal and uncompromising album, Drums Not Dead, with a self-titled release of brilliant pop song interpretations, perhaps the most controversial thing they could have done at the time. Daughters is a streamlined, less alienating version of what the band had been progressing towards — if they are truly dead it’ll make a damn good swan song.
If this is what Daughter’s entire discography will amount to, it stands as a wonderful display of a bands refinement over time. From opener “Hello Assholes” on their first EP to the organ-filled closer “The Unattractive Portable Head,” a highlight of the self-titled, they had an incredibly consistent sound that was nonetheless being honed into something sharper at every opportunity. Regardless of their current status or their shitty demise Daughters will be remembered as the brilliantly uncompromising band that exists on these recordings.