Album Review: Petit Mal

Petit Mal
Bless Your Little Heart
Public Schools Records

Petit Mal’s latest, Bless Your Little Heart, is a collection of 10 scrappy tunes following in the footsteps of fellow Iowa alt-rockers House of Large Sizes. The saccharine sweetness of the album’s title is almost nowhere to be found. If you want Care Bears and greeting cards, you best look elsewhere. If you like your alt-rock served with a heaping helping of snarls, “yeah”s, and “hey”s, well then, bless your little heart.

Album opener “Off the Grid” sets a pell-mell pace the band rarely deviates from. Lead singer/guitarist Grace Locke-Ward taunts “Off the grid, but you’re on the radar” over the power chord chug, which dive-bombs into a couple small, wanky guitar workouts. “Line” keeps up the musical drive and the imposing snarl of Locke-Ward’s vocals, which get even more confrontational, ordering everyone to “wait in line to talk to [her]” (check the Juice Newton reference at the three-quarter mark).

It’s not all attitude and straight-ahead riffs for the Iowa City quartet, however. The sprawling, arpeggiated “Reassuring is Something” is a slow burner. Guitars smolder and buzz, Locke-Ward harmonizes eerily with bass player Rachel Feldmann, before Feldmann and her bass take the lead into a steady build up to a Gibraltar-sized guitar screed for the final minute.
Feldmann has proven herself a strong frontwoman in her other band Lipstick Homicide and takes a turn or two at the mic on Bless Your Little Heart. “Stars in Your Eyes” is a desperate, gripping call for help served fast and heavy, Pixies-style.

Petit Mal let’s the democracy continue when lead guitarist Chris Ford takes a stab at vocals duties for a caustic number called “Empty Gun.” No other song on the album flashes the same metal muscle that “Empty Gun” does.

Petit Mal celebrates the release of their latest, Bless Your Little Heart on October 30th at the Picador.