Samantha Fish sings and plays the electric guitar with a sneer. She sounds nasty, in the best sense of the word, as she performs with a take no shit attitude. When she asserts, “I’m in control,” on her latest album Faster, you know she means it. She’s not afraid to be “Loud” when the song demands, but Fish is no one-trick pony. Her previous incarnations featured her primarily as a blues artist, a Janis Joplin-type who mastered guitar feedback to match her vocals. On Faster, Fish ventures into new territory from country rock (the title song) to hard rock (“So-Called Lover”) to pop (“Hypnotic”) to R&B (“Forever Together”) to hip-hop (“Loud” pairs her with Tech N9ne), without sacrificing the essential toughness that makes her so unique.
Fish employed a fresh producer, Martin Kierszenbaum (Lady Gaga, Sting), who co-wrote eight of the album’s 12 new songs to help with the musical changes. Kierszenbaum also contributed guitar, piano, keyboards, and percussion to the recording and employed a hot rhythm section with drummer Josh Freese (Guns N’ Roses, Nine Inch Nails, the Replacements), bassist Diego Navaira (The Last Bandoleros), and Hannah Brier on backing vocals.
Kierszenbaum does an excellent job of creating a continuity between the tracks even when the cuts employ different styles. He focuses on Fish’s distinctive hard-nosed delivery and her powerful guitar licks. She sings like a person obsessed with living in the present moment. Fish belts out lines like, “You live and die like a classic”, “Kiss kiss the cannonballs”, and “You got to scream it like you mean it” as if love is a matter of life and death. Meanwhile, she takes her axe and chops down the thicket of complications that get in the way.
While Fish understands the power of words, she also knows their limitations. “Spare me the sweet talk,” Fish sings on “All Ice, No Whiskey”. Desire has its own language whose physicality is more important than mere words. As she promises on the title cut, she can “make your heart beat faster”. Or she can slow things down to embers and ashes ready to burst into flames on “All the Words” when she croons, “Said all the words I needed to say when I said goodbye / Cause the caged bird never flies.” Fish lets her guitar express her feelings to convey the mix of emotions that words cannot adequately say.
Faster showcases Fish’s fierceness even during her most vulnerable moments. Much of this is due to her celebratory mood. Whether she’s moaning “Take me” out of lust and need on “Crowd Control” or using her tasty guitar licks to proclaim her ascendency on “Twisted Ambitions”, Fish seems happy being the dominant force in a relationship. “I get under your skin and haunt you from within,” she declares on “Hypnotic” as she brings her lover to his knees. She relishes her position of power. It brings her happiness to be in charge. Fish enjoys being faster and louder than the rest and succeeds at doing so.