Universal acclaim - based on 20 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 17 out of 20
  2. Negative: 1 out of 20
  1. Dec 16, 2010
    Women occupy a unique place in the indie rock spectrum. Their songs and makeup can put them nowhere else –- Public Strain would be a Deerhunter album if it weren't for that sneer in its lip- and yet their music is completely singular.
  2. If you're not quite there by the time six-and-a-half minute opus Eyesore encapsulates everything that's been wonderful about the preceding 36 before slowly fading out, turn it over and start again. It's worth it, because Public Strain is one of 2010's finest LPs.
  3. Sounds come and go but the inspiration and wherewithal to realize your own goal in tone is paramount. Women seem to know exactly what they stand for and in presenting it they've entirely outdone themselves, again.
  4. Public Strain improves on Women in every way, which is no small feat. It's 13 minutes long than its predecessor, but Women doesn't use the extra time to spread out. The band keeps the tension up by building the various lean sounds of that record into new, more muscular variations.
  5. In short, it's a triumph. Yes, it's still messy, and yes, Patrick Flegel's apathetic nasal vocals are too saturated, or buried in the mix, or both, but the intricate musicianship and songwriting take this from "yet another lo-fi garage album" to mini masterpiece.
  6. It feels self-contained, wholly its own, and this is what allows it to hold up such a pristine and vast mirror to the scenes that surround it.
  7. Dec 21, 2010
    The fidelity hasn't improved much from the Calgary foursome's basement-recorded debut, but Public Strain consolidates the clanging drones and subtly hooky flourishes that previously existed only as separate pieces.
  8. Public Strain is an album that invites you in and lets you at least stay for tea.
  9. Women write songs, but they tease us by keeping them hidden, interspersing the teeniest seconds of dazzling clarity with cool sounding sonic murk. And credit to returning producer Chan VanGaalen for whipping up an ambience as dense and seductive as that sepia blizzard on the front sleeve. His proteges are writing good songs, but it's not so much a production job as a sleight of hand trick--VanGaalan stops you from seeing Women's full workings.
  10. At first listen, Public Strain is impenetrably cold. But deep down, beneath the blizzard of noise and hiss, something's burning.
  11. 80
    Never willfully ramshackle or unfocused, Women tread the line between discord and delight with deceptive style. [Sep 2010, p.96]
  12. 80
    The results will probably not prove a tremendous cash cow, but theirs is a commendably original aesthetic, and theirs is an enigma you resolve to crack. [Oct 2010, p.114]
  13. At the surface, the temperature is icy. But like a cold lake's waters, the music of Public Strain becomes less drastic; comforting even, given time.
  14. Public Strain feels stripped-down, simpler, and lolloping. It's not so eerie.
  15. The emotional impact of this music is sometimes disorientating or alienating, but that is probably the intention. It's mostly impossible to discern the lyrics or comprehend their themes. Somehow this doesn't matter, given the striking, weird and often turbulent music beneath.
  16. 74
    Public Strain evokes such questions about genre and instrumentation, recalling heavy hitters like late-period Sonic Youth. But, don't take them for imitators. What the men of Women are crafting is all their own--guitars strung over an abyss.
  17. Women's last record had poppier, brighter aspects than Public Strain, and it's hard to imagine what they might add to this sound beyond an amp'd up production that would wreck their very deliberate effect.
  18. Oct 26, 2010
    This one's also wonderfully textured--distant samples, squeaky kick pedals, rattling snares, the guitars and vocals in a reverb fight, instrument cables in need of soldering....If that sounds like your kind of (fizzle and) pop, you know what to do. [Fall 2010, p.69]
  19. Public Strain is front-loaded with some of the more patience-testing tunes, but stick with it to discover some astonishing beauties.
  20. At its weakest, the album is merely boring with the lamely typical Can't You See, an album opener of distorted rumbling and vocals so low you'd strain to make them out. Arguably worse than a bland track is that the album actually offers some hope for a reasonably enjoyable experience.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 8 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 3
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 3
  3. Negative: 0 out of 3
  1. Oct 2, 2011
    I just recently acquired this awesome record. These guys have definitely nailed the dissonance vs. melody dynamic perfectly here. This type of record is not something that I typically listen to (punk derived rock), but the vocals are well done, the guitar playing is fun and inventive, and the songs are memorable and varied. I can only see myself liking this record more with time Full Review »
  2. Nov 12, 2010
    This is not just one of the best albums of the year, it is one of the best of the decade. It is beautiful and horrifying in equal measure. If Women come up with a pretty,transcendent melody, they don't just play it- they flog it, push it around, drag it through the mud. I do not like abrasive sounding music, but the songs Women play cannot be imagined in any other form. But forget the whole 'Wow it's a Sonic Assault!' angle, it's the songwriting. Eyesore twists and turns and ambles until it breaks into a run- it's a beautiful, strange song that deserves at least one listen from everyone. Heart Distraction, Locust Valley and Narrow with the hall are the other immediately affecting songs. Pitchfork gave it an 8.0 (pretty low for this kind of a record) and didn't bnm it. A bnm would have really helped these guys get more attention. But they're doing pretty well. Buy the album. It is the best one you'll here this year. Full Review »
  3. Oct 5, 2010
    A fantastic album by almost any metric, Public Strain is an engrossing and challenging listen, veering between delicate melodies and dissonant sonic explosions. Women don't obfuscate their source material, but hone in on the most vital elements of their influences and arrange those elements in surprising ways. Familiar sounds subtly veer into unexpected territory, creating a tense but engaging listening experience. The overall effect is menacing, at times disorienting, but ultimately (especially by the last song) rewarding. The band's sense purpose and focus set them far apart from their lo-fi peers. Also, I can't remember the last time I heard a band do so much with such a short run time. Full Review »