It was a sold-out, fully packed house in Cambridge’s Sinclair nightclub when Daughters took the stage at quarter-to-ten on a chilly Tuesday night. Boston is home turf for the band, which spawned at the turn of the millennium in nearby Providence, RI. The band is in the midst of a tour behind their 2018 opus, You Won’t Get What You Want, a stark and affecting comeback record following an eight-year hiatus.
The band’s previous record, 2010’s self-titled Daughters, is best understood by way of their metal and hardcore roots. From start to finish, that record is one brutal, short track after another, an unrelenting assault that grabs the listener by the ears and demands attention. YWGWYW, by contrast, has emerged a bit more varied from its nearly decade-long gestation period, with tracks like ‘City Song’ building menacing tension through spoken word, or ‘Less Sex’, who’s fittingly seductive and reverb-laden bassline carries the listener between distorted guitar passages that punctuate frontman Alexis Marshall’s cleanest vocal delivery to date.
It’s fitting that this latest record makes numerous references to the ocean, as onstage Marshall and company undulate as if buoyed by their own massive waves of sound. The audience came ready to meet that current with their own, with the weight of the crowd forming a massive pit and pressing the front row against the stage from the opening note of ‘The Reason They Hate Me’ through to the end of the show. Marshall’s stage presence oozes with charisma and a confrontational edge. He tempts whiplash while head banging, slams his mic into the floor, reaches into the audience to be grabbed and pulled about, and thrice dives headfirst into the crowd, dress shoes floating above a sea of wide-eyed singing concertgoers.
You Won’t Get What You Want was the focus of the night, which, contrary to the title of the record, seemed to be exactly what fans had been hoping for. The front two rows dissolving into an amorphous tangle of bodies and arms and open mouths shouting back Marshall’s harrowing refrains during cuts like ‘The Lords Song’ and ‘Long Road, No Turns’. Often categorized under the vague umbrella of “noise rock”, the band’s instrumental was fittingly aggressive; both on-record and in-person the band reprise the unconventional playing techniques passed down from their metal heritage and previous record, featuring a massive low end and guitars and keyboard bent into bizarre sonic shapes that evoke the sounds of sheet metal and old horror movies. Drummer Jon Syverson’s relentless playing rounds out a sonic assault that includes bassist Chris Slorach on loan from Canadian post-punks Metz, while Daughters bassist Samuel Walker is unable to tour. The five-piece had no qualms about dipping back into their back catalog for classics like ‘Our Queens’, which features a truly untamed guitar soaring above a massive wall of sound.
The sounds of Daughters’ music has always come from a particularly dark place – no surprise for a band whose debut LP was called Hell Songs. Born of the often-grey skies of Providence and Marshall’s poetic descriptions of addiction and losing control, Daughters have created a truly haunting record that they deliver with the force of a tidal wave. Ending the night perched on his monitor, bent over like a jackknife with his head to the crowd; Marshall sings the final coda of the titanic ‘Ocean Song’, a paean to the end of monotony, to discovering “[the] ocean beyond the waves”, a depth beyond the repetition that keeps bringing one back to shore. Though delivered in some of the most unique, twisted, and sometimes-outright frightening ways (‘Guest House’), Marshall’s poetry has that essential songwriter quality of underpinning all that chaos with a universality that pierces and connects with so many people at their core. You can feel that in the room when Marshall, veins popping from the side of his shaven head, leans into the crowd and connects with them, that knowing intensity in all their eyes. Daughters haven’t softened one bit in all their years – they’re pioneering new ways to deal with darkness.
Review and Photos by Collin Heroux