2009’s self-titled debut from Those Darlins was something special: a record that could have only come from Tennessee (Murfreesboro, to be exact), a merging of honky tonk and punk from a group of girls who like to sing about drinking whiskey and eating fried chicken instead of the heartache apparent in so many other “girl groups.” While Screws Get Loose loses some of the punk edge (instead lightly delving into that Spectory well that’s getting drawn from so often these days), it has enough bravado left over to set it apart from the pack. While drummer Linwood Regensburg, Jessi, Nikki, and Kelley Darlin may sound a bit sweeter (which is a shame at moments), they’ve still got the same endearingly aggressive personality.
The brattier, snarkier songs on the record connect more clearly with the Darlins’ live show and first record, and, probably consequently, they’re also the better ones, even when ditching the punk trappings. The opening title track smartly relies on a ratcheting guitar solo, while following “Be Your Bro” pairs cutesy harmonies with snappy, sorta-feminist/definitely funny lyrics (I just wanna be your brother, you just wanna be my boyfriend/I just want to run and play in the dirt with you, you just want to stick it in). Regensburg’s debut turn on lead vocals, “Let U Down” rides out like a King Khan track, an indiscriminately poppy garage rock track.
Later, “Fatty Needs a Fix” reads like the sequel to Those Darlins‘s “Whole Damn Thing” (in which they eat a whole fried chicken), lyrics focusing on needing food more than sex. Things aren’t all goofy and fun, this time around. “Boy” takes a sort of surfy take on a dreamy, contemplative look at a wayward relationship, while “Waste Away” adds an acoustic, spacey dimension to the band’s sound. While it’s a bit worrying that flavor of the week genre trappings (surf rock and 60s girl group) show up on a sophomore disc, Those Darlins use them wisely, and retain much of their unique persona. The clever lyrics, high energy, and insistence on having fun at all costs keep this disc a winner.