October 18, 2016

LP: Governess - Governess

Governess has seen it all, and on their self-titled 
debut cassette they tell their story with an electric cool.

Erin McCarley, vocalist and drummer of DC punk outfit Governess, sounds exhausted. Not spent, and certainly not defeated, but the kind of steely-eyed, resolute exhaustion that comes from having been in the thick of “it” and having emerged unscathed and all the wiser. “Some days I’d rather stay in bed,” she admits in the chorus of the gorgeously downcast “Daytime.” Governess shares a record label with some of the most voracious, loud, and politically active rock bands of the moment – Priests and Downtown Boys, among others – and while they share that activist bent, attacking topics such as the immaterial labor of parenthood and the lack of societal representation for mothers, they do so with a collected confidence rather than a spitfire fervor. “I am not angry,” McCarley repeats on “Severance,” and her steady delivery eschews any passive-aggression or lack of confidence. Governess has seen it all, and on their self-titled debut cassette they tell their story with an electric cool.

McCarley is the only veteran musician of the trio, which is rounded out by bassist Kieca Mahoney and guitarist Kim Weeks, though the three share a masterful restraint. Weeks’s guitar is all grace notes and Mazzy Star snarling adornments, and Mahoney has a machine-like precision that churns through the murk of the slower tracks on the album, such as “Control Top.” The band’s Facebook page fitting gives their genre as “drudge pop/surf goth,” and their droopiest harmonies drag shoegaze depths. Almost all of the low-end has been removed, and the reverb on McCarley’s falsetto is so thick and slow to disintegrate that it coats every track in an ethereal fog, rendering even the bandmates’ chatter at the tail end of some songs spectral. At the start of the album, “Broken Glass,” McCarley recounts her fluctuating relationship with her ever-changing biology, fascinated by science and wanting “a test tube baby” at nine, and then feeling betrayed and woefully underprepared for the arrival of hormones at twelve. By “Patterns,” the final track and the album’s standout, she’s matured and in full control, as the band’s name would suggest. The implications of “now I lick my wounds in front of liars / no one noticed how I got here” are dryly triumphant; a much-earned final fuck off to the condescensions of patriarchy to end an album where McCarley sings about motherhood, her body, and her story on her own terms. At this point the band allows the song to crescendo in a flurry of handclaps and guitars, nearly peaking in a chorus that recalls Sleater-Kinney’s “Hubcap,” but Weeks and McCarley rein it in just before the hypnotic, fuzzy atmosphere of the album can be punctured. Instead, the guitars and harmonies drop out in favor of a rumbling, minimal victory march to the album’s close.


Listen to Governess on bandcamp.

Mark Lukenbill is a writer, film + radio producer, and wannabe librarian in Brooklyn, NY.