Throw Your Body on the Gears and Stop the Machine with Your Blood, the title of the latest album by Noun, refers to a 1964 speech by Mario Savio, a UC Berkeley student protesting a ban on political activity at the school. An audio sample from the speech plays at the end of one of the album’s early songs, “Misery.” That same segment plays at the beginning of Linkin Park’s “Wretches and Kings.” Thank god the comparisons end there.
Noun is the solo project of Screaming Females frontwoman Marissa Paternoster. Famous for her guitar hero solos and awesome punk rock aggression, Paternoster has been releasing music in classic basement show style with a sinister tinge for almost ten years. She’s been performing solo as Noun for just as long, and Throw Your Body on the Gears and Stop the Machine with Your Blood is her third album on Don Giovanni Records.
Throw Your Body on the Gears features a titch more technology than Paternoster’s previous work but doesn’t skimp on face melting guitar power. The strobey, staticy intro to “Loveblood” is undercut by the consistent thud of a bass drum. It reminds me of something you’d hear coming out of a DDR Max game minus the cartoon character vocals. My favorite song on the album is “Dirty Mind,” a lethargic, wavery techno tune.
There’s also plenty of raw rock here. “Misery” cuts through the album with a high pitched guitar squeal and distorted chugging which slides into a smooth surf rock jam. The whole song blows up into a one of Paternoster’s signature solos.
Paternoster’s clear, expressive vocals remind me of early PJ Harvey. There are so many nuances: a word held just a second too long, an almost inaudible moan. Paternoster has no inhibitions: she is vocally bold and her chanty, sometimes baritone voice floats through the album. Her dark, surreal imagination inspires cleverly morbid lyrics: “Minutes pass while I’m on the floor/I’m pleading prayers not knowing who they’re for/wearing an empty shell and a broken dream/with a dirty mind and a soul that’s clean.” Others like “burning the children in their sleep/and I crammed my name into their mouths” are just scary.
Throw Your Body on the Gears is a dark album. But spots of musical brightness make it an unpredictable one as well. On “Heaven,” a crumbling mass of static melts into a saintly chorus, complete with guitars that sound like harps. Then comes the punch line: Paternoster singing “heaven spits me out.”
Throw Your Body on the Gears is wonderful and unsettling. You never feel safe in Paternoster’s strange world. But you always want more.