Let’s get this out of the way. Katie Monks has a potentially generational voice: a monstrously pliable instrument that ventilates everything from kissed coos to paint-stripping wails, all the while toying with pitch and phrasing like a cat with an injured mouse. If she and her bandmates rely on it a little too heavily on Sore, their full-length debut after several tantalizing singles, they can be forgiven. Such is the power of her presence. Once she opens her mouth, little else registers.
This isn’t meant to suggest that the band is an afterthought. With lead guitar lines ripped straight from the holster of Pixies’ Joey Santiago and a locked rhythm section, these tunes are all solid and punchy. This is the work of a good band. But it really all comes back to Monks’ high ceiling. Vocally, she effortlessly inhabits the same tier as Kurt Cobain did — the garbled tunefulness; the ipecac howl; the implied weariness, equally frightened and knowing. Singles “Desire” and “Purple Rage” hint at how this can all click into a devastating package, but Sore still lacks that definitive anthem. A song that elevates and wields Monks’ talent as opposed to the other way around. A moment where she can sing “Here we are now/ entertain us” or “But he knows not what it means” and its depth connects like an uppercut.
In the mean time? Sore is a passionately played debut that crams as much youthful frustration and guts in 35 minutes as you could ask of anyone. Normally, including the caveat “Yeah, but it’s not Nevermind” would be abjectly unreasonable of a young band. But in this case, it’s meant as the highest compliment possible.
And one gets the impression that reaching this goal is exactly what the band has on its radar.