Album Review: Maiden Mars – The Other Side

Maiden Mars

The Other Side

Iowa City bands swap members, and the members swap instruments. Case in point: Maiden Mars, which boasts Lipstick Homicide guitarist Kate Kane on drums. In this band, Alex Skalla and Katie Rosenberger handle the songwriting, singing and stringed instruments. (And similar to Lipstick Homicide, Maiden Mars is influenced by Bikini Kill, Sleater Kinney, L7 and Babes In Toyland.) I wouldn’t call their new album The Other Side innovative, but when punk rock innovates it stops being punk rock; a good band is one that waves the same tattered flag enthusiastically.

Maiden Mars’ music isn’t generic, though. It’s full of energetic riffing and strong vocal melodies, with surprising twists and turns, never settling for a simple verse-chorus structure.

Rosenberg’s octave jumps and wandering melody distinguish “Swallow My Pride.” She scolds a significant other with “What makes you think I’ll wait you, all meek and cheap and sickly sweet?” She’s ambivalent: “Swallow my pride, or spit in your face?” You can hear Kane’s muscle memory for the guitar informing her drumming—she’s traded cymbal crashes for bar chords.

“Other Side,” while toying with the idea of suicide, has a joyful thrash, a lot like early jam music. As a contemplation of death, Skalla takes an oblique approach, singing “well someone there went through me and found a signal within me / Oh life’s not a linear story.”  And her “choose life” message is tart and flippant: “I don’t give a fuck about the other side.”

“Mouser” begins with a sample of Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, and while it talks obliquely about a relationship (“I’m the pet and you’re the mouser”) there’s no clear narrative meaning. The skuzzy guitars and harmonies are a blast to listen to, ending with Pfeiffer again: “Saved by kitty litter!”

Even as melody and harmony soar, “Proud Planet Negative” goes fully opaque: “You’re so funny in my eyes, Proud planet negative in my mind.” But the vocals remind one of the B-52s. All the songs on The Other Side are short but fully formed, with no solos or messing around. When it’s short and sweet, every little bit matters. A favorite moment is the end of “Trigger Warning” where Alex barks “huh! huh! All right!” which is the perfect TL;DR review of The Other Side.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 179

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