Album Review: Black Dresses – Forget Your Own Face

[Self-released; 2022]

With Forget Your Own Face, Black Dresses’ Ada Rook and Devi McCallion reinterpret the noisy and anti-melodic templates of their earlier projects, particularly 2018’s Hell Is Real and Wasteisolation. Lyrically, they continue to rail against corporatism, patriarchy, and Christian-capitalistic norms, their vocals ranging in tone from flammable despair to agitated confusion to unbridled rage.

On the opening “u-u2”, overdriven synths compete with McCallion’s voice, then crash like a corrosive against Rook’s hellish snarl (one is immediately reminded of Rook’s riveting contribution to Backxwash’s “I Lie Here Buried with My Rings and My Dresses”). “Let’s Be” flirts with a potential hook but dissolves into an unsettling cacophony. At the end of the song, McCallion offers a sarcastic/darkly tongue-in-cheek affirmation (“Never give up on what you wanted”), sounding like Lindsey Jordan’s doppelganger.

“earth worm” brims with tinny beats, frantic synths, and sandpaper textures. Rook poses questions that could’ve served as a workshop prompt for Lingua Ignota’s Sinner Get Ready (“Can you still see / the place you dreamed you would be? Was it ever really there at all?”). While Kristin Hayter, however, embodies mystical hunger; i.e., the Petrarchan craving for union with a higher (or lower) power, Black Dresses revel in stylized nihilism: are Rook and McCallion sinister comedians lampooning our cultural downslide a la 2019’s Joker or traumatized loners sharing selfies from an existential bunker?

“NO NORMAL” features bouncy synths juxtaposed with feedback-ish swirls and bass-y rumbles. The duo revel in self-effacement, painting themselves as painfully and/or humorously generic (“T-shirt slogan / I’m a t-shirt slogan / I’m a meme, I know it”). “nightwish” is the most song-oriented track on the album, bringing to mind the more conventional approaches of 2020’s Peaceful as Hell. Jerky beats and random accents that might’ve been plucked from Grimes’ Visions or yeule’s Glitch Princess undergird a fragmented melody, McCallion lamenting how trivialities persist even as “the universe falls apart.”

With “MONEY MAKES YOU STUPID,” Rook and McCallion again straddle the line between satire and invective, poking fun at our penchant for histrionics while sublimating a generation’s angst and ennui.

Released during a time when distinctions between life and performance have been all but erased, when grief and anger seem inseparable, Forget Your Own Face is a timely sequence, oozing cynicism and a dystopian bent.