Jane Doe Embryo

I hate it when critics claim that grunge killed hair metal — not just because it’s untrue, but because it makes grunge sound like no fun. Remember Kurt Cobain screaming “Doll Steak! Test Meat!” and then laughing his ass off? That freewheeling creative energy was a huge part of what made those bands special. It’s also what makes TheWorst special. This Portland trio is the creation of singer/songwriter/guitarist Brooke Binion, an artist who can drive her point home effectively whether it’s through a murmur or a scream. Jane Doe Embryo is the band’s debut, and like the best grunge, it’s a thrilling emulsification of punk and pop – loud-ass music that the neighbors might get hooked on before they get around to calling the cops. Drummer Benbazi and bass player Will Bradford (Binion’s husband, who also fronts the band SeepeopleS) add even more propulsion behind Binion’s hard-charging riffs. All this adrenalized melody provides a counterweight to the ballast of her lyrics, which tackle themes of trauma and addiction in a matter-of-fact tone that sticks with you. And crucially, TheWorst are tight enough to execute dynamic shifts with ease. “To Have It Your Way” kicks off with the record’s bounciest riff, only to dissolve into a slow, primal chorus. On “Retention Pond,” a clean, Rivers Cuomo-indebted guitar lick erupts into distortion, and it’s like we haven’t heard that trick 10,000 times.

— Joe Sweeney

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