Post-punk is alive and well (again) and Women stay mostly on the good side of the fresh/rote divide on this sophomore release. Following in the footsteps of its heroes, but not too closely, Public Strain showcases a band zeroing in on a signature sound but not quite getting there yet.
“Can’t You See” opens the album with dreamy antipop, kinda cool but insubstantial, an apt description of most of the mellower stuff on the album. It’s the more upbeat stuff that gets interesting. “Heat Distraction” features intriguing dueling guitar trickles that could’ve dropped from a Dismemberment Plan tune, and “China Steps”, with its throbbing beat and angular jangles, is a jaw-dropper of a song in every way, very Liarsesque.Tracks like “Narrow With The Hall” and “Penal Colony” are not bad tunes, but they run together a bit with the last few tracks on the album--ramshackle dreampop in the Deerhunter vein, but somewhat lacking in personality. There are lots of solid little guitar melodies and echo-drenched vocals, but an overall muddy production gives the album a shitgaze-lite feel. Despite a handful of really good songs for mixtape fodder, the album as a whole doesn’t stick.